Recycling Paper Products
Most businesses recycle paper. But what happens to all that paper once it’s been put in the bin?
First, the paper goes to the paper recycling plant. Once there, it is sorted. Not all paper fibers are equal, so among other things, paper will be sorted according to weight, color, and type. Newspaper is separated from office paper is separated from glossy magazines – you get the idea.
Then the paper gets a bath.
The paper gets chopped up and mixed with water and different chemicals. It is heated up and stirred. This helps break the paper down into fibers. The resulting mixture is called pulp. The pulp may have other stuff like metal and plastic and glue in it that needs to be removed.
Magnets pull out staples and paper clips. Filters and screens help remove things like plastic and glue. Then it is time to remove the ink. Chemicals help separate the ink from the pulp, and the ink is either rinsed away with water or floated up using air and skimmed off.
Once the paper pulp is free of contaminants and ink, it’s ready for the next stage of the process. During this stage, it gets beaten to help separate the paper fibers. If the paper is going to be white, the pulp is bleached. If it is going to be colored, dyes are added.
Next, it’s time to make new paper.
The pulp is once again mixed with hot water and chemicals. Then it is sprayed onto a fast-moving screen. The screen passes through a number of felt rollers that squeeze out water and press the paper fibers together. Once it’s dry, the recycled paper is ready to start its new life.
Although this sounds like a lot of work, making recycled paper actually uses 30% – 55% less energy than making paper from trees. Plus it reduces the amount of material going into the landfill.
Paper can be recycled five to seven times before the fibers become too short to make new paper with. Even then it is good for making things like paper egg cartons. Once paper has reached the end of its useful life as a recycled product, it can be composted and turned into soil!