"... the single greatest offset of the use of virgin wood fiber [is] the
use of wastepaper..." Tim Keating, Rainforest Relief.
Treecycle feels that this statement sums up the interconnectivity of issues. The brief articles below discuss some of these issues in more detail.
Recycling of waste paper is looking up.The government standard for recycled paper use has increased the demand for post-consumer wastepaper (PCW) from recycling centers. However, the growth in demand for tree pulp still dwarfs the rise of recycling.
Waste paper from your office or home is called "post-consumer" waste. We assume that recycled paper is made from these wastes. This isn't necessarily so. Many folks feel deceived when they learn that most paper products labeled recycled contain little post-consumer material.
It is important for us as consumers to keep up the demand for this PCW now that the recycling of paper is as viable as it has ever been.
Post-consumer wastepaper is choking our landfills. It is going to incinerators. There is no shortage of wastepaper and we need to concentrate on using it; and taking our waste paper to the recycling center. PCW makes up a very small percentage of the paper fiber used in the US.
It is exciting to think that recycling can really do something. We can keep this trend going by demanding high PCW content in our recycled paper. At Treecycle, we encourage you to choose the item with the highest post-consumer content that meets your needs.
Some Recycled Paper Terms:
Post-Consumer Material (PCW) - Waste paper that has served its intended purpose and has been separated from solid waste to be recycled into new paper. This is what you and I take to the recycling center.
De-Inked Material - Waste paper that has had the ink, filler, coatings, etc. removed as a step in the production of recycled paper. This includes magazines and newspapers that were printed but never sold.
Post-Mill Material - Paper waste generated in converting and printing that is done by a facility other than the paper mill. This does not include mill waste or wood chips.
Recovered, Pre-consumer, and Wastepaper - These are ambiguous terms which have little consistency in definition...often refers to non-wastestream materials such as mill broke, other mill wastes, and wood chips.
The Chlorine Issue and Recycled Paper
On April 11, 1996, a train derailed near Alberton, just west of Missoula, Montana, causing one of our nation's worst chlorine accidents. The chlorine was made by one of the nation's largest paper companies. This accident highlights that the handling and transport of a harsh chemical like chlorine is a constant danger to all of us. People in Alberton now have the direct experience of the indirect impacts of paper use. It could happen anywhere.
Purity. Cleanliness. What does white mean to you? Throughout the industry white paper is achieved by the use of chlorine. This hazardous chemical also means toxic pollution. Mutation. Cancer. Death.
The US paper industry's reliance on chlorine-intensive bleaching places this industry as the worst water polluter in the world. Bleaching paper with chlorine or chlorine derivatives is harmful to our environment. Period. Pulp mills using chlorine for bleaching produce hundreds of chlorinated organic compounds (organochlorides) including dioxins, which are considered the most potent chemical toxins known.
Studies have shown that dioxins are highly carcinogenic, lead to reduced reproductivity, cause genetic damage, and are persistent and accumulate in the environment, becoming concentrated as it moves up the food chain.
Waste paper being recycled was most likely made with chlorine the first time around. The problem with chlorine is the pollution from its use initially to make the paper and not the paper once it is made. The PCF method melds the ability to use our waste paper with processing that is chlorine free.
One advantage of recycled paper is that it can be made easily with less toxic processes, and thus result in less pollution. Not all recycled (or alternative fiber) paper products are made using more benign processes. However, paper made from 100% recycled fibers can easily be whitened with an oxygen-based bleaching process. Ideally, much of the paper we use should be non-de-inked, un-re-bleached, recycled paper. This would lead to a cleaner and healthier environment.
Confusion exists about bleaching terms; they are misused with little understanding or explanation. It is important to distinguish between them. Many print shops and paper salespeople do not understand these terms.
Totally chlorine free (TCF) - No chlorine or chlorine derivatives used to make the paper, which means the
Elementally chlorine free (ECF) - No chlorine gas, but other chemicals containing chlorine are used for
Process chlorine free (PCF) - Recycled paper processed back into paper using no chlorine or chlorine derivatives. Paper not re-bleached or bleached with an oxygen-based system. Secondarily chlorine free (SCF) -is the same as PCF.