The Paper Journey: From pulp to protection
Friday, 05 October 2018
Recycled paper: What’s it all about?
We often boast that our paper products are 100% recycled, recyclable and biodegradable – but what does that actually mean? What’s all the fuss about? Many people think that using recycled materials is a PR exercise as processing it uses as much energy as using a virgin product so what’s the point? In this piece we hope to shed some light on the journey our paper takes before it ends up protecting your goods.
So, what is ‘recycled material’?
The recycled material that makes up most recycled paper products comes from pre or post-consumer waste. This includes trimmings and discarded paper from the manufacture of other paper goods, old corrugated boxes and curb-side waste.
Did you know over 20% of household waste is paper and card?
How does waste become paper?
After the waste is collected, it is taken to a processing plant where its’ journey truly begins. The fibres are then graded for quality and moisture content. Although reusing materials is the best way to get the absolute most from the raw resources, recycled fibres can only be re-used so many times before the fibres become too short to be productive. However, most recycled material has up to 8x recyclability.
After grading, the fibres are run along conveyors which pulp the material with water and sodium-silicate (the same chemical which is used for filtration in wine-making). This combination loosens the ink and cleans the fibres – this is a process known as screening.
Now the fibres are clean, a wire rack presses and flattens them into an even sheet. The paper then runs through a machine at over 60 mph which gradually presses the water out of the pulp using a combination of a vacuum and centrifugal force to gently dry it. Any excess heat generated during this stage is retained within the plant for efficiency.
The paper is then rolled onto spools. A finished roll can weigh around 40 tons! The plant will then rewind the paper to fit the client’s specific requirements, for example, every roll of our Easypack paper has a barcode applied to its core to allow for tracing.
What about the energy used?
The process of recycling paper creates around 95% less air pollution than virgin material and any residues remaining after production can then be combusted creating 30% thermal energy which then goes back in to the plant and the grid.
Not only does this mean that most of the energy used comes from the process itself but also the process actually gives back to the environment! The water taken from local sources for pulping is filtered before re-entering the system cleaner than it began, with over 90% ending up back in rivers.
What makes our paper white? Is it harmful to the environment?
Not at all. Our plants use hydrogen peroxide in their deinking process which is a much more stable and environmentally-friendly solution to the alternative chlorine or bleach options. The formula of peroxide is H2O2 which breaks down to harmless water and oxygen.
Not, only is it more environmentally friendly, this process creates higher yield with a more stable colour which is less likely to revert over time.
Other than being kinder to the planet, what’s the point?
If the fact that using recycled materials is actively helping the environment and ensuring that forests aren’t unnecessarily destroyed wasn’t reason enough, there are many other benefits to using recycled paper.
- It’s cheaper than ‘virgin’ or Kraft papers, which is less efficient during production.
- Recycled paper results in a longer fibre which is stronger and more durable.
- These longer fibres create better cushioning as well as higher impact and recovery characteristics. Making it perfect for protective packaging.
With sustainability being at the forefront of everyone’s minds, it is crucial to know where your materials are coming from and be conscious of the affects they may have on the environment, but we understand that you have to run a business as well. With more and more people making sure they take reusable shopping bags with them or even getting loose fruit and veg rather than pre-packed, why wouldn’t you bring that conscientious mindset to your business – especially if it you get a better deal and a more efficient product.
It’s a no brainer!