How does the environment benefit from paper and cardboard recycling?

Paper and cardboard are everyday materials that can be used in a variety of ways by individuals and companies. Every year, a Swiss citizen consumes about 140 kg of paper. As an indication, it takes 20 times more trees, 100 times more water and 3 times more energy to produce the same amount of new paper than recycled paper. However, these recycled materials, composed of wood and textile fibers, tend to degrade during each recycling process. It is therefore essential to add new fibers. On average, recycled fibers can be used 4 to 6 times before they need to be replaced, thanks to the quality of the machines. But how is the product recycled? How does recycled paper help the environment? What is Big Sack's role in the paper/cardboard recycling process? These are the questions that Big Sack will try to answer in this article.

Paper and cardboard recycling circuit 
To begin with, we need to look at the product recycling process. It consists mainly of 4 key steps.

Step 1: Collection of paper waste

First and foremost, it is important to carefully remove paper and cardboard and ensure that they have not been treated with varnishes or plastic coatings.

In companies, office waste is usually collected in special paper bins. In private households, tissues, paper towels, soiled paper and cardboard (e.g. pizza boxes), self-adhesive films and composite packaging such as milk cartons and fruit juices should be separated and disposed of with household waste.

Paper and cardboard are collected by various local partners and taken by dumpsters to the nearest recycling centers. There, the materials are processed either manually or mechanically.

Step 2: Dissolution, cleansing and production of paper pulp

The cardboard and paper are mixed with water in a pulper, a sort of giant mixer. The aim is to make new pulp that can be transported by pumps. This is called fibre suspension. Despite the know-how of the recycling centres, they still have to ensure that the recycled material does not contain any undesirable residues such as glue, adhesives, metals, staples or string.

Here are some ways to separate unwanted fibers:

Grading: This involves using increasingly fine sieves to dilute the fibers, which will become finer and finer. This process allows the plastic fibres to be collected.

Purification: A step used to remove heavier particles such as paper clips or staples.

De-inking: Use of chemicals to remove the hydrophobic character of the ink.

Bleaching: Use of hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydrosulphite to give the coloured paper a whitish tint.

To conclude this stage, the waste materials sorted and eliminated by the various processes listed above are reintroduced into their respective channels.

Thus, metals (paper clips, staples) are reintroduced into the metal sector, clay sludge into the cement and tile sector and plastics, provided they are homogeneous, are reused.

Step 3: From raw material to finished product

Since paper and cardboard are not waste products but raw materials, recycling centres and factories must ensure that the various stages necessary for their production are completed. Once the pulp is finished, it has to go through a series of steps to move from being a raw material to a finished product.

Drying: Recycled paper contains a lot of water, so it is transported to machines that dry it. These machines are made up of large steel cylinders which, thanks to their temperature and spacing, determine the weight of the paper.

Coating and calendering: Various mineral products are used to ensure better printability. Calender machines smooth the sheets with heat. This process produces several final products, such as matt or glossy coating.

Winding: This process recycles the paper and meets the needs of the market. The mother reel receives the newly manufactured paper sheets. The daughter reels then cut the sheets of paper to length to meet the desired formats.

Finally, after passing the quality controls, the paper rolls will be packed and labelled in order to be handed over to the future buyer as a finished product.

Step 4: Printing and distribution of paper

Each distributor offers printers different types of paper. Contrary to what one might think, the price of recycled paper is equivalent or lower than that of new paper.

How does the environment benefit from recycled paper?

Firstly, paper recycling helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On average, it takes 70% less energy and water to recycle paper than to produce new fibre from trees. Recycling one tonne of paper is equivalent to saving 17 trees and about 3.5m3 of landfill space.

Furthermore, as explained earlier in this article, paper factories use toxic chemicals and are among the worst polluters. When paper is buried in the ground and decomposes, a significant amount of methane (a greenhouse gas) is released. This is currently one of the main causes of climate change.

By recycling paper, you are not working with these harmful factories and you are reducing air pollution by up to 74%.

What is Big Sack's role in the paper/cardboard recycling circuit?

Big Sack is a company specialising in the collection of construction waste. It acts as a service provider to collect your waste and transport it to the recycling centers nearby. It is therefore at the beginning of the paper/cardboard recycling cycle.

Buy your Big Sacks on our website, receive them by post, fill them at your own pace and contact us for collection!

We collect paper, cardboard, green waste, inert materials, clean concrete, wood, soil, plaster, bulky items, sortable waste and asbestos.

For all other requests, please contact us on 0800 284 284.




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