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Paper Recycling Process: Step by Step

Steps to Recycling Paper

What exactly is the paper recycling process?

The more you try to find interesting recycling facts, the broader the subject becomes. I started learning about things I never even considered like: WHAT HAPPENS ONCE THE PAPER LEAVES YOUR RECYCLING BOX???

Of all the recycling facts out there, I thought this was one to share so, here goes:


  • The first step of the paper recycling process is of course taken by each and every one of us when we take the time to separate our paper and place it in the recycling box.
  • The next step is taken by your city, when they send the recycling truck over to pick up the paper and bring it to the processing facilities of your neighborhood.
  • Next, comes the sorting . The paper is placed on a moving conveyor to be sorted. I used to imagine that all the paper was just sent through and “melted down” with the use of chemicals. But it is a lot more complicated than that. The paper has to be sorted by hand because there are different grades of recycled paper. Here are some examples of this: white paper, colored paper, magazines, newspaper, kraft paper...
  • Once the paper has been sorted it is then baled to make the transport and storage more convenient.
  • The paper is then shipped to processing mills usually in the Pacific North West.


  • At the processing Mill, the paper is soaked in water. It is then shaken to release the fibres to return them to their pulp state.
  • It is important at this stage to remove the ink. If we don't do this, we will be left with a dull grey paper. There are three ways to do this:

  • Chemicals are added to the water to separate the ink from the pulp and then huge quantities of water are added to flush out this ink. (This water is usually reused!!)
  • Air is shot through the pulp. This process creates a foam containing about half of the ink. The foam is then skimmed off leaving a clearer water. This process breaks down into water and oxygen on disposal, so it is the most acceptable.
  • The pulp is bleached using hydrogen peroxide or chlorine. This process is less acceptable since the chlorine combines with organic matter to produce toxic pollutants.








  • We then add finishing chemicals and either press the pulp into sheets to dry or mix it with virgin pulp.


As I mentioned before in my page on Recycling Paper , the paper recycling process involved in changing old paper into new paper requires a significant amount of energy.

We can see here that the de-inking process uses water and chemicals, but these amounts are much less than they would be in the manufacture of virgin paper.

Unfortunately, the same paper cannot be recycled indefinitely. Each time the fibers are pulped, they get shorter and shorter and lose their papermaking qualities.

A fiber can be recycled about four and six times before it disintegrates.

The quality of paper produced will vary depending on the percentages of recycled and virgin paper used in its production.

Please remember that we can make most anything from recycled pulp which used to be made from virgin wood pulp.

By recycling paper, we help save our forests from being destroyed while at the same time, we help cut down on the environmental damage caused when we turn trees into paper.

Always keep paper recycling containers in a well seen, easily accessed location

I will try to keep adding more interesting recycling facts to my site so, make sure to keep coming to learn more and more.




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