Though paper was invented
some 2000 years ago in China, paper has been made from wood pulp for
only about 200 years. The paper industry has recycled fibersince the
very beginning both by re-processing any waste created during the
manufacturing of paper and using recycled fiber to make new paper. In
fact, up until the transition to wood pulp took place in the 1800s,
paper was made from recycled rags and other textiles.
Recycled paper has been used
as a feedstock for some paper products in the United States since about
1850. However, in the 1950's and 60's, many mills began to focus on
using only virgin wood pulp and the use of recycled paper dropped to its
lowest point to around 18% nationwide. It wasnt until the 1970's and
1980's that many paper companies retrofitted mills and built new mills
to re-gain the capability of using post-consumer recycled paper in
addition to virgin wood pulp. Now in the United States there are some
400 pulp and paper mills and most of them use some recycled paper to
make the many different types of paper products.
According to "Paper
Recycling Hits record, AF&PA says" in April 3, 2000 edition of Waste
News, 1999 saw an all time high for the recovery of recycled paper in
the United States. The recovery rate for paper (amount of paper
recovered divided by purchases of paper and paperboard) was 45%, up from
44.6% in 1998. Recycled paper accounted for 36.5% of total fiber
The goal for the industry is 50% recovery, and Waste News
in Dec. 13, 1999 predicted that the consumption of recycled fiber by the
paper industry to grow an average of 1.8 % each year between 2000 and
Recycled Paper Types
Utilization of recycled
paper ultimately uses less energy, water and trees. It has become a
desired commodity and the pulp and paper industry has developed
standards for categorizing the various types. There are some 90 grades
of recycled paper, in four basic categories.
Office paper includes a wide
variety of the paper used in offices and business including letterhead,
copy and computer paper, and file stock, and is the most valuable of
recycled paper types. However, office paper currently has a 42% recovery
Of the four categories, Old
Corrugated Containers, commonly known as cardboard, is the most recycled
commodity, most of which (90%) is by businesses rather than homes. In
1997, OCC claimed a 73% recovery rate in the nation.
8.8 million tons of Old
Newspapers (ONP) were recovered and recycled in 1998 mostly from
households. The EPA estimates that there are 13.5 million tons on ONP
generated per year in the U.S., making that approximately 99.9 pounds
per person per year.
Mixed Papers (MP) contain a
wide variety of paper including magazines, paperboard, glossy, and
includes some of the other three paper commodity types. Mixed Papers
(MP) are currently the least valued of all the paper types, but with the
expansion of residential curbside collection programs over the last ten
years, more and more MP is being generated and some mills are using it
as a primary feed stock. In coming years, MP could begin to rival OCC as
the most recycled paper commodity.
Collection and Processing
Paper is collected in a
variety of programs. Residential and office recycling programs are
generally operated by recyclers who process the material for resale to
end-users. Industrial producers of large quantities sometimes process
and/or broker the material themselves. Paper, as with all recycled
commodities, commands higher prices in the market place when the
material is handled and processed to the end users specifications.
The recycling industry today
brings a more sophisticated technical approach to all aspects of paper
recycling. Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) today combine
technologies like pneumatic conveying, automated baling, contaminant
removal with trained manual sorting to meet market needs. One cutting
edge project involving Weyerhaeuser and MSS (mechanical separation
systems) is using optical sortation at a Baltimore MRF to sort specific
paper grades from residential mixed waste paper.
The majority of paper ends
up in paper products like cardboard, newspaper, tissues, boxboard, and
printing and writing paper. With around 80% of the mills in the United
States utilizing recycled paper, much of the paper products made today
have some level of recycled content.
Currently 17% of ONP is
recycled into other products besides the classic paper products.
Mold-pulp egg cartons
Building roofing paper