Everything anyone needs to know about paper recycling


What does paper recycling involve?

Paper recycling is a recycling and production process called papermaking whereby waste paper is turned into new paper. As a totally natural product made from wood fibres, paper waste is important for the creation of new cardboard and paper products whereas if this paper wasn’t recycled, it would simply mount up or go into rubbish bins where it emits toxic gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which are harmful to the environment and also reduce air quality.

Which paper can be recycled?

There are lots of different types of paper that can be recycled – from newspapers to white office/computer paper and from magazines and catalogues to cardboard and phone directories. However, certain types of paper cannot be recycled either because they have a coating or other treatment such as magazines or paper that has been laminated with plastic. Paper towels and cups and paper that contains food waste are other types that cannot be recycled.

The benefits of recycling

Recycling paper can offer many environmental and eco-friendly benefits such as reducing the waste that goes to landfill, saving forests by preserving trees and using waste paper as a resource instead, generating lower levels of pollution and using less energy and water during the manufacturing process compared to using virgin paper and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, recycling paper can actually make you money and you can read how to do this here - How to Make Money and Sell Paper & Cardboard

How is paper recycled?

The first step in the process is for the recyclable paper to be collected from homes and businesses and taken to specific collection points such as paper scrapyards and waste paper stores where recycling agents and paper merchants will put this into a large recycling bin which will then be collected with other such bins and put into a huge recycling container. All this paper is then weighed, assessed for quality and then graded before being transported to facilities that recycle paper. 

Having reached the recycling plant, the paper is then sorted and separated depending on its quality and value, what is was made from and whether it has been treated with a coating etc.

After it has been sorted, the paper is then shredded to break it down into smaller pieces. This shredded paper is then mixed with chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide and caustic soda and water to break down the paper fibres until it becomes a slurry in a process known as pulping. 

This mass of pulp then needs to be screened by pushing it through special screens that have different sizes and shapes of holes which removes any contamination from the pulp and filters out any unwanted material or objects.

Depending on the paper being recycled, the pulp then has to go through the de-inking process to remove any ink, glue or adhesive and this is achieved by passing it through more screens. The paper pulp is now clean enough to be put into a machine that spins any remaining debris out of it using a centrifugal cleaning process.

Next, the pulp enters the filtering process to eliminate any impurities with the lighter contaminants such as tape, glue or string floating to the top and heavier material such as metal dropping to the bottom, all of which can then be removed.

If white paper is to be produced then the next stage involving bleaching is important as this is where hydrogen peroxide is applied to improve the paper’s brightness and whiteness. Obviously, recycled cardboard does not need to enter the bleaching process.

The final stage of the paper recycling process is rolling where the clean pulp is prepared to be used to produce new paper. This involves mixing the pulp with hot water and chemicals before it enters a machine that has press rollers to make sure all the moisture is removed. The pulp then passes through a machine with a heated metal roller so that it is completely dry and solid and is turned into long rolls of paper which can then be cut into the required size for delivery to businesses and manufacturers who use it for their products.

Some interesting facts about paper recycling


  • For every ton of recycled paper produced, 17 trees are saved
  • Paper accounts for 40% of landfill waste
  • It is possible to recycle 77% of office waste paper so it’s important that workplaces have a recycling routine in place to make the process as easy as possible for employees so why not learn How to make your staff more eco-friendly
  • Office waste paper can be recycled into paper towels
  • The type of paper most wasted is that of a high grade
  • Receipts can’t be recycled or composted because they are coated with a product called BPA so if you are asked if you want a receipt, try to always say no