Facts About Recycled Papers

This document is courtesy of Unisource Canada, Inc.
November of 1988, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued
guidelines to implement Section 6002 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
for purchasing paper and paper products containing recovered materials.
The purpose is to stimulate demand for paper products made from material recovered
from solid waste because "recycling" does not occur unless the recyclable materials
collected are made into a product that is actually used.
The circumstances stated above have brought on a new urgency around the world with
regard to recycling paper. Our country's solid waste disposal problem is rapidly making
our landfills scarce and disposal more costly. By specifying recycled content paper, we
can make a positive contribution to the recovery of materials from the solid waste
stream. However, it is not sufficient simply to quote a "recycled" content; the consumer
should know the nature of the recycled fiber, its source, and the environmental impact of
its processing.
More than 40% of a landfill is comprised of paper and paperboard. While a majority of it
is packaging and non-high grades, at least a quarter of it is paper that could have been
made into recycled printing and writing paper. Surprisingly, office and residential paper
take up twice the space (14% est.) in landfills as do newspapers (7% est.).
Internal waste generated from trimmings, butt rolls, or clippings from converting reels
into small rolls and sheets.
Converter and Printer
Waste generated outside of a paper mill which is clean, white, and unprinted paper
clippings (pulp substitutes) or de-inking grade waste named after the de-inking process
required for its recovery. This includes scrap that is colored or inked clippings.
End User
Post Consumer Waste (PCW): paper products used and collected from offices, schools,
and households. The key to recycling is post consumer waste. It is estimated that 60
million tons of PCW is going into our landfills, annually.
Our paper mills are moving quickly to manufacture and market paper using recycled
fibers. Amid this effort to recycle however, has emerged another issue - the semantics
of what is recycled paper waste probes the whole issue of recycling itself.
This document is courtesy of Unisource Canada, Inc.
The problem is that the current EPA law defines recycled fiber as any fiber produced
after cutting, slitting, or trimming of initial paper machine reel into small rolls that was
once dry and is used again in the wet end of the paper making process. What this
means to a paper mill is that it can now use many of its trimmings and other internal
waste pulp that is always present in any efficient paper making process and now call it
recycled. This gives every paper mill the capability to make a grade of paper and call it
recycled. What this does not do is address the problem of post consumer waste or deinked grade levels of paper.
The intent of the EPA guidelines is to encourage mills to use waste paper that is
recovered from municipal solid waste streams. The term "recycled" largely implies post
consumer waste paper. However, current Federal EPA guidelines do not require
recycled printing and writing grades to contain post consumer waste paper.
The paper guidelines recommend establishment of minimum recycled content
standards and set forth recommended levels. EPA recommends that procuring
agencies set their minimum recycled content levels no lower than the levels designated
in their table called "EPA Recommended Minimum Content Standards of Selected
Papers and Paper Products." In the case of printing and writing paper, a waste paper
content of 50% is recommended; while for the newsprint, packaging, and paperboard
categories a post consumer waste content is used as the standard (40%, 35%, and
80% respectively). Wet mill broke and forest residues are explicitly excluded from the
definition of "recycled materials" because it is already routinely reused in the paper
making process.
In summary, paper is biodegradable, but it represents a significant amount of municipal
waste (42% est.). Because the cost of trash removal is also significant, recycling waste
paper for reuse in the paper making process makes good sense. According to EPA
guidelines, waste paper would include both pre-consumer waste and post consumer
waste, but not all mill broke.
Useful Definitions
Waste Papers
Includes post consumer and manufacturing (pre-consumer) wastes. Paper waste
generated after completion of the paper making process includes the following: post
consumer materials (usually de-inked), envelope cuttings, text books, bindery
trimmings, printing waste, cutting and converting waste, butt rolls and mill wrappers,
obsolete inventories, and rejected unused stock.
This document is courtesy of Unisource Canada, Inc.
Pre-Consumer Waste
Dry paper generated after completion of the paper making process but never reaching
the consumer, i.e. butt rolls, rejected unused stock, envelope cuttings, bindery
trimmings, paper waste resulting from printing. This waste can be mill broke or paper
waste returned to the mill as pulp substitutes.
Post Consumer Waste
Recovered paper materials of those products generated by a business or consumer
which have served their intended end uses, and which have been separated or diverted
from solid waste for the purpose of collection, and recycling. These paper materials
generally require de-inking before processing. Some examples are fibrous waste
generated from retail stores, office, buildings, homes, etc., after they have passed
through their end usage as a customer item such as office paper, direct mail, used
corrugated boxes, old newspapers, and old magazines.
Recycled Paper
Paper made from pulp with varying percentages of waste paper and virgin wood fiber.
Some desirable characteristics are more opacity, density, and flexibility or suppleness.
In the case of cotton content paper (rag), the cotton linter content is considered recycled
waste materials (shirt cuttings).
Recyclable Paper
Any paper separated at its point of discard or from the solid waste stream for utilization
as a raw material in the manufacture of a new product and that can be de-inked. It is
often called "waste paper."
The process, which removes inks, clays, coatings, binders and other contaminant’s from
printing and converted waste paper. Printing and writing mills that can de-ink paper are
currently limited in the U.S.A. This process does produce a liquid effluent with current
technology. Likewise, primary and secondary sludge waste is generated but can be
used on farmlands or marketed as compost.
Mill Broke
Any paper waste generated in a paper mill prior to completion of the paper making
process. It is usually returned directly to the pulping process. Wet mill broke and forest
residues are excluded from the definition of "waste paper" by EPA. Some states and
municipalities may recognize this waste as acceptable in their standards for recycled
papers. However, dry paper and paper bound waste, i.e., those waste materials of the
manufacturing operations up to and including the cutting and trimming of the paper
machine into smaller rolls are considered mill broke and currently considered recycled
fiber by the EPA. Many mills do, in fact, count their mill broke to meet the minimum 50%
EPA guidelines.
This document is courtesy of Unisource Canada, Inc.
Solid Waste
Waste material disposed of in essentially their original form by burial, land-fill and
sometimes incineration. Over 40% of solid waste is paper and it is estimated that 14%
of this is fine printing and writing grades, and probably at least a quarter of this could be
recycled into fine paper.
Virgin Fiber
Non-recycled fiber, which is derived from wood chips after the pulping process.
Office Fiber
Post cons umer fiber containing toner, which cannot be removed and is not de-inked
Post Industrial Fiber
Trimmings from converting operations.