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Info - Recycled Paper Products
Recycled copy paper, other papers, envelopes, note books, files & folders
Paper use, despite the promise of the 'paperless office' is still responsible for over 15 million hectares of the Earth’s forests being cleared and chipped each year. In Australia over 90% of old growth forests have been cleared or logged, and wood-chipping for paper production continues to put pressure on native forests and water catchments; polluting rivers and reducing water supplies and biodiversity.
But there's a better alternative: using 100% Recycled Paper saves resources, energy, water and native forests. One tonne of this paper can save up to: • 60% water use • 2.5 barrels of oil • 2.5 tonnes of greenhouse gases • 27 kgs of air pollutants • 4 cubic metres of landfill/waste • up to 17 trees. From Guide to Environmental Copy Paper, The Wilderness Society, 2007.
A wide range of Eco Products such as copy & printing paper, note books, adhesive notes, presentation folders, envelopes etc are now available in recycled paper.
Recycled Copy Paper
Recycled Copy Papers are generally equivalent to common ‘virgin fibre’ papers in terms of their appearance, finish, opacity and weight (gsm). They are also made to function the same as virgin copy papers in photocopying and other applications.
They tend to cost a bit more than virgin papers due to the smaller scale of production, and due to the presence of many ‘low-cost’ virgin fibre papers from the developing world in the Australian market.
While packaging and newsprint recycling sees quite high rates in Australia, only around 11% of office waste (which is good quality fibre) is actually recycled.
Using recycled copy paper is one way that you can lower your environmental impact by saving water, energy and trees. In addition, you can also reduce your paper use by only printing when necessary, printing double-sided, reusing any paper that is only printed on one side, and practicing effective paper waste collection for further recycling.
Recycled Paper: Pre-Consumer v Post-Consumer waste paper
You may have heard about 2 different types of waste paper used to make recycled paper: Pre-Consumer waste and Post-Consumer waste. There appears to be some confusion about these terms. In some descriptions/articles it’s almost like Pre-Consumer = bad; Post-Consumer = good. But there’s more to it than that.
In sourcing waste paper feedstock for an office paper recycling mill, virtually all mills follow an identical path:
- They will reuse what is known as mill broke, ie rejects, trimmings, reel ends which occur/are collected during the papermaking process. This is all internal waste; it has not left the mill; and it does NOT count as recycled fibre. It’s a process that occurs as a matter of course in every mill in the world.
- They will try to source the highest quality, most uniform source of waste paper that has left the mill. Usually this is Pre-Consumer waste: paper that has been discarded during a manufacturing (eg envelope production), printing, packaging, trimmings, etc process before the product reaches an end-consumer. It’s very important that this highest grade of waste paper is recycled; and it should be recycled into similar high grade papers. It’s a real waste if such a high grade resource ends up being ‘down-cycled’ into eg toilet paper, or worse if it ends up in landfill.
- Once the available sources of pre-consumer waste paper have been used up, Mills will then turn to Post-Consumer waste: paper that has been discarded by end-consumers. This will usually be harder and more expensive to collect, and be far less uniform in quality of fibre for papermaking. In some countries, legislation requires papermakers to use certain levels of post-consumer waste to ensure the viability of wastepaper collection services. But all recycling mills will eventually find it necessary to move progressively into using more and more post-consumer waste paper as there is only a very limited amount of good pre-consumer waste available. In order to make more paper, they are forced to use more post-consumer waste paper. That is, as long as we, the end-consumers, play our part by creating demand for the recycled product.
So we see the use of waste paper as a feedstock for recycling to be a continuum: first the highest quality, most uniform waste (Pre-Consumer) will be used, then as this is fairly quickly exhausted, more and more Post-Consumer waste will be used. There are many examples of mills, eg in Europe that have run out of or can no longer source pre-consumer waste and now produce 100% post-consumer papers. But it takes consumer demand (and legislative support?) to make this happen.
In Australia there is a potentially huge Post-Consumer waste resource available to papermakers: only about 11% (as of 2005-6) of our office waste is actually recycled. This is good quality waste which deserves to be recycled back into good quality office papers. You can help to create the demand needed to grow the office paper recycling market in Australia by closing the loop and buying and using recycled office paper.