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Paper

Paper recycling process

Why recycle?

Recycling is one way we can all help to ensure an environmentally sustainable future for ourselves and generations to come.

Fact:

Recycling one tonne of paper uses 70% less energy than manufacturing from trees and 40% less water!

Collection

Collection

Paper for recycling can be collected from people’s homes, from recycling sites, and from businesses.

Sorting and Grading

Sorting and Grading

Collected paper must be sorted and graded before being recycled as there are over 50 grades of waste paper!

The four main groups are:

  • Low grade - ie: mixed paper, corrugated board
  • De-inking grade - ie: newspapers, magazines, office paper
  • Kraft grade - ie: unbleached brown packaging
  • High grade - ie: printer cut-offs, unprinted paper

Shredding and baling

Shredding and baling

Many businesses, offices and some homes will shred documents to protect sensitive information contained in them. Companies (like SITA UK) that provide a confidential shredding service ensure that documents are collected and shredded securely. Large amounts of paper, including shredded paper, are baled (compressed by a machine into a bale shape) before being transported to a paper mill.

Pulping and screening

Pulping and screening

Once at the paper mill, the paper is placed into a large vat and mixed with water. This process breaks down the paper into tiny strands of cellulose (organic plant material) called fibres. Eventually, this is turned into a mushy mixture called pulp. The pulp is then filtered and screened. The screens are made up of a series of holes and slots of different shapes and sizes, and remove any remaining contaminants such as bits of plastic or glue.

De-inking

De-inking

For certain uses, pulp must also be de-inked. There are two main methods of de-inking:

Washing - Chemicals can be used to separate the ink from the paper, and then washed away with water. Although this process requires the use of chemicals and water, the quantities used are much less than in the manufacture of new paper, and the water can often be cleaned and re-used.

Flotation - Air can be passed through the pulp to produce foam. This foam holds at least half of the ink and can be skimmed off.

New paper

New paper

Pulp is poured onto a huge flat wire screen. On the screen, water starts to drain from the pulp and the recycled fibres quickly begin to bond together to form a watery sheet.

The sheet, which now resembles paper, passes through a series of heavy rollers - which squeeze out more water, some heated cylinders - which dry the paper, and an iron roller - which irons the paper.

Now the paper is wound into a giant roll. One roll can be as wide as 30 feet and weigh as much as 20 tonnes! The roll of paper is cut into smaller rolls, or sometimes sheets, before being dispatched for use.

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