Recycling Paper and Cardboard and What Happens to Paper and Cardboard When It Goes to be Recycled

Background
How is Paper Made
How Many Times Can Paper Be Recycled
What Happens to Paper and Cardboard When it Goes to be Recycled
Separation
Baling
De-Inking and Processing

Background

Paper and cardboard are made from cellulose fibre that comes from trees. The trees are sometimes grown in specially developed plantations but they also come from virgin forest. With 13 mature trees being used to make a single tonne of paper it is important recycle paper and retain trees and forests for the purposes of biodiversity, animal habitats and combating climate change. Some paper is made from other fibre sources like cotton or hemp.

How is Paper Made

In order to make paper, the trees are chopped down and cut into small wood chips. The chips are mechanically and/or chemically treated to release the cellulose fibres and for a pulp. The pulp is mixed with large quantities of water to make a mush or slurry that is passed over a moving mesh. The water passes through the mesh leaving the fibres behind in a damp, rough form of paper. The damp paper is passed through a series of rollers to flatten and dry it. The paper is then rolled onto large spools with the huge rolls then sent for cutting and packaging into the final paper product.

How Many Times Can Paper Be Recycled

Each time paper is recycled the cellulose fibres get smaller and lose strength. This means new fibres always have to be mixed with the recycled content. Paper can usually be recycled 8 times.

What Happens to Paper and Cardboard When it Goes to be Recycled

Recycling of plastics happens in 3 stages:

  • Separation
  • Baling
  • De-Inking and Processing.

Separation

In mixed recycling streams the paper and cardboard is separated from steel, plastics, aluminium and other materials sent for recycling. The paper items may be further separated into types of paper that require different processing steps. For example, cardboard milk cartons require removal of their plastic coating but newspapers don't.

Baling

Different types of paper and cardboard are compressed into large bales for transport to different processing plants.

De-Inking and Processing

Different types of paper sent for recycling will require different processing methods. Printed paper may need treatment with special detergents or soaps to remove the ink. The waste paper is mixed with water to break it down into a slurry of fibres. The slurry is screened to remove contaminants like plastic, staples, paper clips, tape and string. The cleaned slurry is then mixed with new fibres to produce new paper.

Source: AZoCleantech

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