Is Recycled Paper Really Environmentally Friendly?

Silly question, right?

By now we all know the benefits of recycling so we might conclude that recycled content in our paper is environmentally superior to virgin fibre, directly obtained from trees…but what is our motive in using a recycled copier paper – it’s a misinformed notion in our minds - we think it’s the solution that is green and sustainable.  

Unfortunately this is a common misnomer, actually the process for making recycled paper isn’t an environmentally friendly process which contradicts the public belief but this is due to the fact that using recycled content for producing a white copier sheet again demands harsh chemicals and resources to de-ink and make recovered fibres white again (and even then with not 100% satisfactory results). Furthermore, the paper quality of a recycled sheet is much inferior to that of a virgin sheet as the fibres become shorter each time they’re recovered and on average can only be re-used between 4 and 8 times – hence, we need fresh fibres to keep the recycling process going and to maintain the paper cycle - virgin fibre from well-managed forests—a renewable and abundant resource—is necessary in achieving real sustainability and meeting the ever-rising demand for paper.

How does using virgin fibre papers consider for the environment?

Here we have another myth - that the paper industry is responsible for mass deforestation. IT’S NOT TRUE!  They don’t go round pinching trees and wiping out forests – trees for paper are from privately owned forests where they are farmed: planted, harvested and replanted, just like your fruit and veg! They are an infinitely renewable resource so tree farmers just follow the natural lifecycle and encourage it - industries that depend on trees need thriving forests so the first ones to be interested in sustainability is the paper industry.

Young forests are very efficient at absorbing CO2 than old trees which as they age start to decompose and release carbon back to the atmosphere. 

Do we need to keep recycling the paper we use?

Of course, you may be assured that you should continue to recycle your waste paper diligently and we have some supporting data that affirms this. Europe is leading the world in paper recycling with a remarkable 70.4% of paper being collected for recycling, bearing in mind the paper produced that is not available for recycling ie sanitary papers this is very high. 9 out of 10 cardboard boxes and cartons are made from recycled paper fibre and as also are newspapers. Should your organisation not already have a waste paper recycling policy in place then one should be implemented to capture every last sheet, envelope and flyer that you need to dispose of.

So with your new knowledge and a good conscience, you can use virgin copier papers for your printing needs knowing that it can then be recycled multiple times to become packaging, newsprint, and other paper products which make economic sense and which are fit for purpose.

And…if you should be challenged why your organisation isn’t using recycled paper you can confidently reply “We care about the environment, we use environmentally-friendly paper instead”!

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