Ten questions on paper recovery and recycling

Why Recycle ?

Recovered paper is a valuable raw material that can be reused to create new paper and board products. Paper recovery is preferably to landfill or incineration for energy recovery.

What can be recycled ?

Almost any household paper can be recycled, including used newspapers, cardboard, packaging, stationery, ‘direct mail’, magazines, catalogues, greeting cards and wrapping paper. It is important that these papers are kept separate from other household waste, as contaminated papers are not acceptable for recycling.

Why can there be no 100% recycling rate ?

Some paper products are not collectable and/or recyclable. The share of such paper products, which consist for example cigarette papers, wall papers, tissue papers and archives, is estimated to be about 15-20% of the total paper consumption. Further to that, it might not be economically or environmentally sound to collect and recycle everything that in theory would be possible because this would require heavy transportation.

How many times can paper be recycled ?

Depending a bit on the paper grade we are talking about, it can be recycled to 4-6 times.

Would it be possible to use only recovered paper in paper production?

Basically all paper grades can be produced based entirely on recovered paper. But, because paper cannot be recycled endlessly, the system requires a constant flow of virgin fibres to operate.

Is it possible to mix recovered and virgin fibres?

Yes it is, and it is done broadly. Obviously, most of the paper products can be produced using only recovered or virgin fibres, but it is also possible to use both at the same time.

How is used paper collected?

The way of collecting recovered paper depends on its source. From big industrial and commercial sources the amounts are so high that they have dedicated collection equipment of their own. For households, paper that is intended for recycling is collected separately, i.e. not together with normal household waste. In some countries, recyclable materials like paper and board packaging, plastics packaging, etc. are collected together. Some countries collect old newspapers and magazines separately from paper and board packaging..

How can a normal citizen contribute to increase paper recycling rates?

The most important thing that normal citizens can do is to bring used paper to collection – whatever the local system is – and keep it separate from wastes like food waste etc. As said, when mixed with wastes mentioned above, used paper would not be suitable for recycling any longer.

Does recycling save trees?

Paper recycling means that natural resources are used in an efficient way and it contributes to sustainable development. Paper put on landfills would really be waste. However, as explained above, paper cannot be recycled indefinitely, and a flow of virgin fibres is always needed. Forests, when managed in a sustainable way, form a source of renewable resources, and consuming renewable resources instead of non-renewable ones makes sense.

What are the sources of recovered paper?

The biggest source of recovered paper is formed by industry and businesses - 52%. That covers also converting losses (cuttings, shavings) and returns of unsold newspapers and magazines. Some 10% comes from offices, and the remaining 38% from households.