What is paper recycling?

Most countries have efficient systems in place for collecting and sorting wastepaper. Thanks to recycling, this wastepaper can be reused for making similar products, reducing the amount of waste that ends up at landfills and the need for new virgin fibre. The paper cycle is an example of a circular economy, where materials are kept in the cycle and reused to create new products, reducing the need for new resources and minimizing waste. 

What is recycled paper used for?

The primary use of recovered or recycled paper is to produce a wide range of paper and cardboard products, such as newspapers, magazines, office paper, and packaging. Traditionally newsprint papers have always been made with a high proportion of recycled fibre, often as much as 100%.

Once paper fibres have become too torn to use as raw material for new paper production, however, they can still be reused for other fibre-based products such as egg cartons, as well as for arts, craft or other creative applications. When fibre is too weak for further recycling, it can also be used for generating bioenergy.

What paper products can I recycle?

Any clean paper is suitable for recycling, such as newspapers, cardboard, packaging, stationery, direct mail, invoices, office paper, magazines, catalogues, greeting cards, envelopes and wrapping paper. 

What paper cannot be recycled?

Any paper that is lined with foil or plastic cannot be recycled. The same applies to carbon paper, laminated or wax paper, stickers, and soiled disposable tableware. Impurities can harm the recycling process and it is therefore important to check the contents of paper before recycling it.

What are the benefits of recycling paper?

Recycling paper reduces the amount of waste sent to landfill. Recovered paper is an important raw material both for graphic paper and for packaging. It conserves natural resources by providing recycled paper fibres to be used for making new products, which reduces pollution and requires significantly less energy during the papermaking process compared to virgin fibre.

As well as environmental benefits, paper recycling also promotes jobs and supports community welfare in a circular economy. All in all, it’s a small act that creates a big impact for people, for the planet and for future generations!

 

Why aren’t all paper products made with only recycled fibres?

Because the paper fibres become more fragile each time they are recycled, we would soon run out of usable fibre for papermaking if the paper cycle were based on recovered paper alone. This means some virgin fibre content from trees is essential for achieving the quantity and quality of paper that is desired.

Learn more

Is paper biodegradable?

Paper is a natural material made from wood fibres, which are derived from trees. Paper would break down naturally over time however, the speed at which paper biodegrades depends on various factors including the type of paper, the presence of other materials in the paper (such as ink and chemicals), and the environmental conditions in which it is disposed of.

For example, paper that is coated or laminated may not biodegrade as easily as uncoated paper, and paper that is buried in a landfill may take much longer to biodegrade than paper that is composted.

What is the difference between recycling and composting?

Composting is a natural process that involves the decomposition of organic materials, such as food scraps and other biodegradable materials like paper, into compost. While paper will biodegrade over time, paper should always be recycled rather than composted as it is by far the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to deal with used paper products.

Recovered paper is a raw material that is in high demand: the more paper is recycled, the more recycled fibres are available to use in papermaking and therefore the need for new trees is reduced.

Is paper a sustainable material?

Unlike plastics and many other packaging materials, paper comes from wood and contains no petrochemicals. The fibre can be recycled efficiently which prevents waste and conserves resources by promoting a circular economy. Because it is made from a renewable resource (wood), paper’s main raw material will never be depleted. With sustainable forest management, the trees that paper is sourced from capture carbon from the atmosphere, making forests a ‘carbon sink’ that helps mitigate climate change.

 

Explore further

 
5 messages about paper and sustainability
Blog | 4 min

5 messages about paper and sustainability

Read more
In these history-defining times, we need the certainty of print journalism more than ever
Blog | 3 min

In these history-defining times, we need the certainty of print journalism more than ever

Read more
How UPM is supporting publishers in a changing luxury market
Story | 3 min

How UPM is supporting publishers in a changing luxury market

Read more