Recycled paper is more damaging for the environment than non-chlorine bleached fibre from sustainable forests
No. Recycled paper is made from waste paper – that means it spares new trees from being cut down. Also, recycled paper takes less energy to produce – for example, no trees need to be felled and transported to the mill.
But these reasons alone do not make recycled paper less harmful to the environment – whole forests are managed to supply the raw materials for virgin paper. The real issue is over ‘sustainable forests’ – this is a meaningless term. You can only be sure paper is from a sustainably managed source if it is certified by the FSC. Read more
Recycled paper is more expensive than virgin paper
Not necessarily. The first recycled papers were more expensive, but recycled paper is much more widely available now.
Sometimes recycled paper will cost more than virgin paper, sometimes it won’t. But generally speaking, you can expect the price to be lower if buying in bulk.
Recycled papers are usually poor quality
The quality of recycled paper has improved massively in the last 20 years due to advances in papermaking technology, improved sorting and increased recycling rates. It is now often impossible to tell the difference between quality recycled and virgin paper.
De-inking recycled paper is harmful to the environment
The de-inking process uses the detergent, sodium hydroxide – this is a main ingredient in soap and is also used commercially in low doses – for washing fruit and vegetables. In many cases the residual detergent and ink ‘sludge’ is harmless enough to be used as a fertiliser.
Sometimes the ink is diluted, rather than removed, and then spread evenly throughout the sheet of paper – this is known as dispersal. Sometimes the ink is dispersed in such a way as to create a deliberately speckled effect.
One ‘environmentally friendly’ paper is as good as another
A paper’s claim to be ‘environmentally friendly’ is meaningless unless explained and justified. A paper’s environmental impact includes fibre source, energy issues, water, effluents and emissions. Choose 100% recycled or an FSC-certified product.
The bleaches used in paper making are bad for the environment
No paper produced in the EU or the UK is bleached using chlorine bleach. Also, the paper industry, as a whole, now uses virtually no pure chlorine gas, the most harmful bleaching chemical. Hydrogen peroxide is now used widely, on both virgin and recycled papers – this is the same chemical found in tooth-whitening kits, and is relatively harmless.
Elemental chlorine free (ECF) papers are made from pulp bleached using oxygen, chlorine dioxide or other chemicals rather than pure chlorine. Totally chlorine free (TCF) papers are made from pulp which has been bleached without the use of any chlorine compounds at all. Both ECF and TCF are significantly less polluting than traditional chlorine gas methods.
By replanting trees, the paper industry is helping ensure the sustainability of natural forests
This is true only up to a point. There is a huge difference between a commercially managed monoculture that is treated with pesticides, weeded, and barren of wildlife, and a natural forest with its biodiversity intact. However, FSC forestry principles insist that natural woodland is respected and biodiversity encouraged – so FSC-certified forests are certainly securing natural forests for the future.
Paper is made from wood from tropical rainforests
Paper is not normally made of tropical hardwoods – if only because they would wreck the paper milling machinery. However, there are concerns that in some developing countries native forests have been cleared for commercial plantations. Paper is made primarily from northern forest softwoods, and some specially planted Eucalyptus and other fast growing species coming from tropical areas.
‘Woodfree’ paper is not made from trees
‘Woodfree’ only means the paper is free from visible particles and natural substances that cause the paper to yellow with age. This term is being discouraged in retailers and suppliers.