How is Paper Recycled


Paper can be recycled up to 7 times before the fibres become too weak to be further useful. And if only one half of all the paper would be recovered and recycled, as many as 20 million acres of forests would be saved. The statistics about recovered and recycled paper are encouraging but they are far from ideal.

Paper Recycling Starts with the Users

We all use paper. Lots of it! An average person in the UK uses as much as 200 kilograms of paper per year. In order to recover and recycle the paper we use, we all have to do our part of the job - separate recyclable from non-recyclable waste and dispose them into large recycling containers at the local recycling banks.

The Recycling Process

Paper that is collected at the recycling banks is taken to the recycling plants where it is sorted according to different grades, for example office waste, old newspapers, magazines, etc. but it is typically also sorted according to different contaminants such as metals, ink, glue, etc.. The sorted paper is then washed in order to remove the contaminants but since soapy water cannot remove inks and similar contaminants, washed paper also goes through the so-called de-inking that detaches ink from the fibres. The end result is clean pulp which can be used to make “new” paper.

Production of recycled paper once the fibres are separated from waste works pretty much the same than the first time paper production. The recovered fibres are mixed with water to create slurry from which can be created different paper products ranging from cardboard to newspapers and office paper, depending on the materials that are added to the slurry. Then, the slurry is spread with large rollers into thin sheets. When dried, the paper is rolled up and ready to be reused.

Bleaching of Wood Pulp

De-inking process is sometimes followed by bleaching of wood pulp with an aim to achieve the desired whiteness and make the paper look like “new”. But since bleaching of wood pulp often involves the use of various hazardous chemicals and large quantities of water, recycled paper often is not bleached. If the bleaching process is used anyway, it usually involves the use of hydrogen peroxide and sodium dithionite which do cause any major environmental concerns.


Ink, plastics and short fibres are by-products of paper recycling. They are collectively known as sludge and are usually either burned by the recycling factory for energy or disposed in landfills.