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Recycled Paper frequently asked questions

Q: What are post-consumer and pre-consumer fibre?
A: Post-consumer fibre is paper and paperboard already used by the consumer that comes mostly from retail businesses, office buildings and private homes.

Pre-Consumer fibre is trimmings and other scraps of paper or paperboard not yet used by the consumer. They are collected from binderies, envelope manufacturers and other paper converters.
Post-commercial: Printing and converting waste
Pre-commercial: Forest residues and mill manufacturing waste generated after completion of the papermaking process. (source: domtar)

Q: What is the difference between text and cover paper?
A: Text & Cover papers are fine quality, uncoated printing papers made from high grade wood or cotton fibers. They are available in a variety of common sheet sizes and weights.

Text & Cover papers can convey moods and themes ranging from quiet, classic elegance to bold excitement. They can create a look of prestige and a sense of fine quality. They can economically add color and impact to a project. And they perform superbly on press and in the most demanding finishing operations.
The difference between "text" and "cover" papers is mainly one of weight. Heavier cover weights and the lighter text weights are manufactured with identical qualities. Cover papers are generally used where extra weight, bulk and protection is desired. This includes the covers of brochures and catalogs as well as projects such as folders, cards, posters and menus. They can be matched with text papers in individual jobs. Text paper are usually specified for the inside pages of books, brochures and catalogs. They are also used for advertising inserts, broadsides, letterheads, book jackets, folders and posters.
Collectively, Text & Cover papers provide nearly unlimited versatility for any work requiring fine printing papers. Individually, each one offers specific qualities which can be used to meet the creative, production and functional requirements of any project. (source: afandpa)

Q: What Goes Into Recycled Paper?
A: Paper that is collected for recycling is sorted according to the type of mill that will use it. Most recovered office paper can be sent to a deinking mill, which separates the ink, coatings and other extra materials from the paper fibers. The fibers are then sent to a paper machine to be made into new paper.

Even virgin paper mills have always recycled their internal scraps and many also have long recycled clean scraps from businesses that convert paper into envelopes, reams and other products. A few printing and writing paper mills have long had the capability to deink printers' scraps. Reusing this "preconsumer" material is an economically sensible part of the production process and proves that recycling works.

But the vast majority of paper ends up in people's homes and businesses, where 90% is discarded within a year. This "postconsumer" paper is more diverse, with characteristics such as copier toner and a wide variety of adhesives that are not found in preconsumer scraps and are much harder to recycle. Most of this postconsumer paper used to be landfilled or burned - losing its potential for repeatedly conserving resources by continual recycling - and local governments had few markets for selling the recyclable office and household paper they were collecting in community recycling programs.

Now many governments and business purchasers require postconsumer content in their recycled papers. Most recycled papers now have some postconsumer content. But there is, nevertheless, significant room for increase: more than 90% of the market still goes to virgin paper and even recycled papers could include much higher postconsumer percentages. (source: Conservatree)

Q: How Is Recycled Paper Defined?
A: Legally, recycled paper only has to include materials recovered after the initial paper manufacturing process. But that definition is so loose that in the past some "recycled papers" contained only mill scraps that would have been included in virgin paper anyway. Recycling collection systems focus on postconsumer paper, which is most of the scrap paper that needs collection and recycling. So, for practical market development considerations, virtually all recycled paper buyers today specify postconsumer content.

Requiring postconsumer content develops markets for community recycling collection systems by creating incentives for paper mills to buy their postconsumer scrap paper. This, in turn, encourages research and development and mill investments in recycling technology, further strengthening market capacity.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issues minimum recycled content guidelines for federal paper purchases. While only federal agencies and federal contractors are required to follow these standards, they have been adopted by so many state and local governments, as well as businesses and organizations, that most paper companies now meet at least their minimum requirements. The EPA guidelines require minimums of 30% postconsumer content for most uncoated printing and writing papers, and 10% for most coated papers. (source: Conservatree)

Q: How Are Recycled Papers Labeled?
A: The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) environmental labeling guidelines require only "recovered materials" for papers labeled as "recycled." There is no postconsumer content required, so papers containing only mill scraps could qualify. Any paper labeled with the chasing arrows symbol is required to both have 100% recycled content as well as be recyclable in a reasonably available collection system. If the paper does not meet one or both criteria, text must accompany the chasing arrows symbol explaining what qualifications the product does meet. If the label does not indicate postconsumer content, you should assume there is none until investigating further. (source: Conservatree)

Q: Who Is Required To Use Recycled Paper?
A: The federal government requires its purchasers to buy recycled paper. It also requires contractors who pay more than $10,000 in a year for paper to buy recycled for the portion that is used to fulfill government contracts.

Some state and local governments require their purchasers to buy only recycled paper. Others allow a price preference (a pricing leeway, usually about 10%) for recycled paper and/or have legislative goals for a percentage of their paper purchases to qualify as recycled content. All 50 states have some type of legislation or executive order encouraging the purchase of recycled paper and/or products. Many state and local governments also require contractors to use recycled paper for government work.

Businesses performing federal contracts are required to use recycled paper, and may be required to do so for other government contracts. Some state courts require documents to be printed on recycled paper (e.g. California). Many businesses not required to buy recycled paper nevertheless have developed policies to do so, as part of their environmental and community responsibility. (source: Conservatree)

Q: What Kinds of Recycled Paper Are Available?
A: You can get just about every kind of paper now with recycled content, providing high quality papers for businesses, billing, magazines, catalogs, books, advertising, direct mail and many other uses. Grades available include:
* letterhead, stationery and envelopes
* business cards
* brochure papers
* high quality copy paper
* offset
* text and cover
* book printing papers
* opaques
* all grades of coated papers
* bristols, index, translucent, tag and board, drawing, and specialty papers (source: Conservatree)

Q: Aren't Recycled Papers More Expensive?
A: In the past, recycled papers often cost considerably more than virgin papers. Today, many grades such as text and cover (often used for letterhead, brochures and publications) and some coated papers are cost-competitive with virgin papers or even cost less. Copier and offset papers still tend to cost somewhat more, but the price differentials are smaller than ever, usually only a few percent.
When there are cost differences, they are primarily caused by many recycled papers being made on smaller paper machines than virgin papers (creating a difference in economies of scale), by virgin paper mills dropping their prices because of vagaries in the market, and by imbalances caused by a newly capitalized and still-developing recycling system vs. a well-established and industrially integrated tree-pulping production system. Additionally, recycled paper incorporates all its costs into the product, including providing an alternative to disposal, and is not rewarded for its significantly lower energy and water use. Virgin paper costs, on the other hand, are masked by generous government timber, energy and water subsidies and do not incorporate responsibility or costs for the product's eventual disposal. (source: Conservatree)

Q: How Can A Buyer Justify Higher Recycled Paper Costs, When They Exist?
A: Recognize that recycled paper's benefits are far greater than simply dollars and allow a price preference. The most common is 10%. Several studies have confirmed that price preferences do not increase paper budgets to the preference limit. Even 10% price preference policies generally yield paper price increases of no more than 2-3% overall. However, some recycled papers need the entire preference while others are less expensive than virgin. Price preferences allow buyers the purchasing room to choose recycled papers even when some grades may be slightly higher-priced than their virgin paper alternatives.

* Aggressively reduce paper waste, using the resulting paper budget savings to buy recycled paper even when it is more expensive.
* Apply recycling income and savings, such as payments for collected paper or avoided disposal costs, to funding the difference in costs for recycled paper.
* Put price differentials into perspective. How much is the actual price difference compared to the total project cost, or total budget, or other expenses? Can you offset higher-priced recycled paper purchases with savings from other types of recycled papers that are less expensive?
* Take the long view. Paper markets are cyclical and highly dynamic. Sometimes all paper prices are high, other times low. Sometimes market factors affect recycled and virgin papers differently and cause tempo-rary price differences. Experienced paper buyers realize that prices continue to vacillate. (source: Conservatree)

Q: What About Quality?
A: In the 1980s, recycled paper was often of uneven quality, sometimes appearing tan, gray, or spotted. But today recycled paper is available in all colors, including the brightest whites, and meets the highest technical standards, sometimes even exceeding comparable virgin papers.

In 1998, the U.S. Conference of Mayors conducted a study with leading equipment manufacturers and the Government Printing Office. Over two million sheets were tested for paper feeding, reliability, image quality, toner fixability, smoothness, curl, and other aspects. Results proved that recycled papers with 30% postconsumer content performed just as well as virgin papers and recycled papers with lower postconsumer content.

Commercial printers and copier machine manufacturers today agree that recycled paper is suitable for all their machines. They only require good quality paper, whether recycled or virgin. (source: Conservatree)

Q: Can all paper be recycled into new paper products?
A: Not all paper can be recycled into new paper products.
Some papers have too many contaminants to recycle. Used paper plates and pizza boxes are not made into new paper products because food cannot be removed during processing. Other contaminants include carbon paper and plastic tape.

There is also a limit to the number of times a piece of paper, a corrugated box or other paper product can be recycled.Each time paper is reprocessed, the wood fibers break down. They eventually get so small that they slip through the screens during the screening process and become waste that goes to a landfill. (source: Georgia Pacific)

Q: What is recycled paper?
A: Recycled paper can have several meanings, but the most consistent definition is derived from our federal government's guidelines. Almost all state and local government and business procurement specifications now reference the Environmental Protection Agency's guidelines on recycled paper. The EPA guidelines require a minimum of 30% post-consumer content for uncoated printing and writing paper, and a minimum of 10% post-consumer content for coated papers. Other forms of paper, such as newsprint, corrugated packaging, tissue, and others, also require post-consumer content. The EPA doesn't consider mill broke, the unprinted trimming and converting scrap from paper mills themselves, recycled content. (source: new leaf)

Q: What is pre-consumer waste?
A: Pre-consumer materials are those that have not met their intended end-use by a consumer and include allowable waste left over from manufacturing, converting, and printing processes. Examples: mill-converting scraps, pre-consumer deinking material, pulp substitutes. Magazines and newspapers that were never bought also are termed pre-consumer. (source: new leaf)

Q: What is deinked pre-consumer waste?
A: This paper has been printed but not used by consumers, such as waste from printers and unsold magazines and publications. It is processed like post-consumer waste and is deinked for reuse. (source: new leaf)

Q: What is post-consumer waste?
A: This is paper that has already been used and returned through a recycling program, thereby diverting it from a landfill or incinerator. It is usually deinked and then processed to make new paper. Office paper waste makes up the majority of post-consumer waste content that is used to make recycled copy and printing papers. (source: new leaf)

Q: How is recycled paper made?
A: Recycled paper, either pre or post-consumer materials needs to be washed and is often deinked prior to being pulped. The pulp goes through a bleaching process to make it whiter. There are many bleaching processes; New Leaf Paper chooses a processed chlorine free process. Once the pulp is bleached, it enters a series of phases including the following: the paper forming section; the press section where water is removed by pressing the wet paper between rolls and felts; and the drying section where the moisture content is reduced to the desired level; and the calendering section where the paper is compacted and smoothed progressively as it travels down a stack of steel rolls. Once completed the paper is stored in either rolls or cut into sheets. (source: new leaf)

Q: What is deinking?
A: The deinking process removes applied inks, finishes, glues, and other contaminants from wastepaper in order to extract the cellulose fiber. Typically this requires extensive processing through a variety of pulping, screening, cleaning, washing, and/or floatation equipment. (source: new leaf)

Q: What does processed chlorine free mean?
A: Processed chlorine free refers to recycled paper in which the recycled content is unbleached or bleached without chlorine or chlorine derivatives. Dioxins and other toxins and pollutants created by chlorine and its derivatives are often referred to as chlorinated organic compounds. The dioxins have been associated with adverse affects on the immune and reproductive systems of human as well as those of fish and wildlife species. New Leaf 's papers are processed chlorine free. (source: new leaf)

Q: What is elemental chlorine free?
A: Elemental chlorine fee applies to paper processed without elemental chlorine but with a chlorine derivative such as chlorine dioxide. Although less harmful than using chlorine, it is still considerably worse than totally chlorine free. (source: new leaf)

Q: What is totally chlorine free?
A: Totally chlorine free applies to virgin fiber papers that are unbleached or processed with a sequence that includes no chlorine or chlorine derivatives. (source: new leaf)

Q: What is virgin fiber?
A: Virgin fiber is fiber that has never been used before in the manufacture of paper or other products. (source: new leaf)

Q: What is agricultural byproduct?
A: Agricultural byproducts are fibrous byproducts of agriculture, such as cereal straws and corn stalks, which have previously been treated as a waste stream. These materials are routinely burned or flooded from fields, wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of a valuable resource and damaging the environment. (source: new leaf)

Q: What is sustainably harvested virgin fiber?
A: No matter how well we recycle, the paper industry will always require some virgin fiber. Both trees and non-wood fibers can be cultivated as sustainable sources of virgin fiber, reducing the need to destroy old growth forests for paper. Additionally, the per-acre fiber yield from some non-wood virgin fibers appears to be higher than that from tree farms.(source: new leaf)

Q: What is the Forest Stewardship Council?
A: Recently, some United States commercial forests have undergone a sustainable harvest certification process overseen by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a non-profit organization set up to encourage the use of sustainable practices in forestry worldwide. (source: new leaf)

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