running a green office

recycled paper faqs

what is recycled paper?
There are no universal standards, but recycled paper should include a high a proportion of post consumer waste fibre as possible. Post consumer waste is paper that has already been used and is finished with. The use of this type of fibre is most likely to reduce waste paper going to landfill or incineration.

what should I be looking for?
Ideally you should buy paper that has a high recycled content, with a post-consumer waste content greater than 70%, i.e. totally chlorine free during production and has an accredited environmental or green label that details emission standards. Purists may want to look for the Blue Angel logo, Europe’s tightest specification for recycled paper. Blue Angel Award paper and board must be manufactured from 100% scrap paper, 51% of which must be low or medium grade, containing kraft sulphate fibres. Understandably this target is too high for many businesses and a more realistic green goal is to use recycled NAPM approved paper. To qualify for the NAPM recycled paper mark, paper and board must be 75% genuine waste fibre and this minimum value must not include any mill produced wasted.

if I use recycled paper will I be saving trees?
Not necessarily. The main benefit of using recycled paper is to reduce the amount of paper going to rubbish tips. Recycling does make the best use of the yield of the tree by extending the life span of its fibres.

are there papers which cannot be recycled?
Most paper can be recycled, but those who collect office waste prefer good quality white waste which is sorted before collection. So coloured paper, sticky notes, thermal fax paper, card etc may not be collected, or collected by different companies who deal with newsprint and magazine paper.

does recycled paper cost more?
It can do, particularly as virgin paper is amazingly cheap at present. Check suppliers regularly and be prepared to haggle and change when necessary.

what is ”environmentally friendly“ paper?
This is meaningless unless explained and justified. Considerations include fibre source, energy issues, water effluents, gaseous emissions and solid wastes to name a few. It is very difficult to check all these and if paper can be justifiably called “environmentally friendly” it will have an accredited label attached such as the Forest Stewardship Council which tracks the chain of custody throughout.

what does the term “woodfree” actually mean?
This term does not mean the paper is not made from trees it simply means paper that is free from visible particles and substances naturally occurring in wood, which cause the paper to yellow with age.

will I help to save the rainforest if I use recycled paper?
No, simply because the paper industry does not normally use tropical hardwoods. Paper is mainly from softwoods.

will my printer cope if I use recycled paper?
Many companies produce all their literature on recycled paper, and the difference between the print on virgin or recycled paper is very small. As long as you design with the paper in mind, get the right paper and use a printer who is experienced with printing on recycled paper even the most complex print jobs will be perfect.

how is the ink taken out of recycled paper and isn’t this harmful to the environment?
The pulp is put in large vats and detergent added to float off the ink. Air bubbles are added and these take the ink to the surface where it is scooped off and solidified. The solid residue has various uses, including cat litter!

are the bleaches used in paper making harmful to the environment?
This has been an issue in the past but the paper industry now uses virtually no pure chlorine gas, which was the original beaching method.

how do I make sense of the various labels and green environmental claims made?
Look for the official logos (see article on ecolabels). Treat vague claims such as “environmentally friendly” and “made from sustainable forests” with extreme caution. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council logo, the NAPM logo, the Blue Angel, Nordic Swan, the European Flower on products. Don’t take green claims at face value, always ask questions and ask for evidence.

useful websites include: which lists approved brands which are manufactured from a minimum of 75% genuine waste paper and board waste fibre, no part of which should contain mill produced waste. the “Blue Angel” symbol indicates paper made from 100% waste paper with at least 51% low grade or medium grade scrap and wastes containing kraft. involves voluntary environmental product declaration providing standardized environmental information across products’ life cycle. promotes responsible management of the world’s forests and sets international standards. the European Paper Merchants Association. the government stationery office.


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