How Paper is Recycled

April 8, 2013

by Alex Francis

Recycle Paper

Photo by D Services |

Both the act of recycling paper and the ability to buy products made from recycled paper have become so commonplace that hardly a second thought is given to the entire process. You drop your old paper into the recycling bin, head to the store and buy new recycled paper products, and go on about your business as usual.
But as it turns out, what happens in between the drop off and pick up of recycled paper is actually very interesting. Here’s a brief rundown of the process:
Bundles of paper are delivered to the paper mill. This includes newspaper, printer paper, paperboard (which is what cereal boxes are made of), and any other type of recyclable paper that you can think of.
The paper is put into a de-inker. As its name implies, the de-inker uses a chemical washing process to remove all of the ink from the paper. The paper mixture is then separated from the ink and moved to a pulper.
The paper is turned into pulp slurry. Pulp slurry is the name for the rinsed waste paper, water, and solvent mixture that is created after the ink has been removed and it has passed through the blender-like pulper.
Any remaining contaminants are removed. The pulp slurry is transferred to a washing machine that dilutes it with more water and removes any contaminants that have managed to make it this far through the process.
The clean pulp is then fed through a pressing machine. The presser removes all of the water as well as any remaining ink. At this point, the pulp is starting to resemble paper.
The pulp is flattened and rolled into continuous sheets of paper. Once it has been flattened and rolled, the paper is ready to be used to make new recycled paper products.
Because the quality of paper degrades as it is recycled, it’s not always possible to make clean, white sheets of recycled paper from the finished product. Common uses for recycled paper include newspaper, paper towels, and insulation.
For those who are more visually inclined, here is a short and simple video from Recyclebank that explains the entire paper-recycling process.

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