Paper Recycling - PDF

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Paper has been used by man for thousands of years. The earliest known paper was
made by the Egyptians from papyrus plants in approximately 2,200 BC. More than
2,000 years ago the Chinese invented papermaking using rags, hemp and the bark of
mulberry trees and this method spread across the Middle East to Europe in the 12th
Century where it was used for many centuries.

As the world demand for paper grew, ground wood chips became the main source of
fibre rather than rags and straw. When paper making became mechanised in the 18th
century, paper became a cheap and readily available material. The main raw material
for paper today is wood pulp derived from wood chips, such as short fibred hardwoods
(eg eucalypts) or long-fibred softwoods (eg pines), however some paper is made using
cotton fibres.

All paper and cardboard is made in much the same way. The wood chips are first
treated mechanically or chemically or a combination of both to release the fibres and
produce a pulp. The pulp is mixed with water to make a slurry which is passed over
rapidly moving mesh. The water in the pulp is drawn through the mesh, leaving the
fibres behind on the mesh. The damp paper is then passed over a series of rollers to
flatten and dry it. To achieve certain characteristics, starch like substances may be
added to the surface of the paper. Finally the paper is rolled onto huge spools which
can be cut to the required size and shape. Corrugated cardboard is made by laminating
a fluted sheet of cardboard between two flat sheets of cardboard.

Did you know?
•   Your old newspapers can be made into more newsprint, cardboard cartons,
    notepads, kitty litter and egg cartons.
•   Your old cardboard box can be made into new cardboard boxes, toilet rolls, and
    cereal boxes.
•   Recycling just one tonne of paper saves approximately 13 trees, 4100kwh of
    electricity and over 30,000 litres of water.
•   In 1998/99 Australians used almost 3.5 million tonnes of paper
•   Almost 1.8 million tonnes were collected for recycling
•   Australia's newsprint recovery rate has increased from 28% in 1990 to 69% in 1999

Tumut Shire Council – Fact Sheet 2007 – Paper Recycling
Used cardboard box and/or newspapers can be made into:
• Egg cartons                                             • Toilet rolls
• Cereal boxes                                            • Cardboard boxes
• Newspaper                                               • Kitty litter

How does the paper I put in my recycling bin or drop off get
made into new products?

Your old paper and cardboard is taken from your kerbside bins or from your local
recycling centre drop off point at the waste depots and brought to a Materials Recovery
Facility (MRF) – where recyclable materials are sorted for transport and sale. At the
MRF, the paper and cardboard is separated from other recyclables for re-manufacture.

Unlike the process of making paper from raw materials, making paper from waste paper
requires little chemical pre-treatment. The paper bales are placed into hydro-pulpers
where the paper is stirred in water until the fibres break free from one another and
produce a pulp of individual fibres. The pulp is treated to remove contaminants such as
plastic, string and paper clips using sophisticated screening techniques. The pulp is
then strained and made into paper in the same way as making paper from raw material.
According to the Industry Commission, there are some limitations to paper recycling.
"Paper can be recycled into a wide variety of paper and other cellulose products.
Contamination problems limit its reuse in food packaging such as milk cartons, and the
degradation of fibres (during recycling) mean that used paper is generally 'down graded'
as it is recycled. Thus, old newspapers cannot be used to produce high quality printing
and writing papers, but they can be used in applications requiring mechanical pulp,
such as newsprint and tissue."

Although old newspapers have been used for many years to make packaging materials,
until recently they were not used to make recycled newsprint. This was because of
difficulties with the de-inking process which has been resolved and a new de-inking and
recycling plant enabling newsprint to be made from a mixture of old newspapers and
magazines, and raw pulp. In the de-inking process, soaps are used to remove the inks
and the inky residue is used as a soil conditioner. All newsprint manufactured in
Australia now contains up to 40% recycled fibre (Source: Publishers National
Environment Bureau PNEB).

How many times can paper be recycled?

Paper can usually be recycled up to eight times. Paper fibres break down the more times
they are recycled so that the degradation of fibres during recycling also limits the number
of times that a particular paper fibre can be recycled. Adding some raw fibre or good
quality waste fibres to the recycled pulp can improve the quality and strength of the
recycled product. Unfortunately old newspapers can’t be used to produce high quality
writing paper, but they can be used to make recycled newsprint.

Tumut Shire Council – Fact Sheet 2007 – Paper Recycling
What is ‘contamination’?

Contamination is a problem for paper recycling as making quality recycled material relies
on recycled materials having few contaminants. Some of the major contaminants are
greasy food, broken glass and plastic bags. To ensure the recycled goods collected are
contamination free, only include clean paper goods with your other recyclables so that
chemical pre-treatment is kept to a minimum.

For more information visit:

New South Wales Jurisdictional Recycling Group -


Gould League -

Industry Commission, 1990, Interim Report on Paper Recycling. -

Pulp and Paper Manufacturers Federation -

Tumut Shire Council – Fact Sheet 2007 – Paper Recycling

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