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MEEF - Recycling Technologies  - previous page


 


Paper Recycling

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 consumption.

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 2002.

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.

  • Old Corrugated Containers

  • Old Newspaper

  • Office Paper

  • Mixed Papers

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 rate.

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.

End Uses

Primary Markets

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.

Secondary Markets

Currently 17% of ONP is recycled into other products besides the classic paper products.

  • Cellulose insulation

  • Mold-pulp egg cartons

  • Building roofing paper

  • Animal bedding

  • Hydro-mulch

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