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A Guide to Recycled Paper

23 Feb

There was a time when recycled paper came in two hues: washed-out gray and off-yellow. Now, recycled paper is available in a rainbow of colors, a range of materials, and even with custom printing options. But not all recycled paper is created equal!

Buying recycled paper reduces the amount of waste ending up in the landfill. It also saves energy – recycled paper uses much less energy to produce – and recycling causes less air and water pollution than manufacturing “virgin” paper. However, make sure you’re getting the biggest environmentally friendly bang for your buck. Keep in mind a few recycled paper definitions that will help you choose the most eco-friendly option whether you’re buying journals, stationery, or even office supplies!

Post-Consumer Waste vs. Pre-Consumer Waste

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recycled paper must be made from at least 30% post-consumer waste. That means that 30% has been used by a consumer, turned into a recycling program, and then reused to make new paper. Pre-consumer waste, on the other hand, uses scraps left over from the paper manufacturing process. While it’s good to use up that waste, it’s even better to eliminate it from the paper production process altogether, which means buying paper with the highest post-consumer waste content that you can find. For example, the Mudlark notecards boast 80% post-consumer waste, a very eco-friendly choice for writing that thank you note!

Recycled Content

You might find paper products labeled with a “recycled content” or “contains recycled content” claim. In these cases, the product has less than 30% post-consumer waste or contains only pre-consumer waste. While it’s great to buy products that use any amount of recycled content, these paper options are on the low end of the eco-friendly paper scale.

Chlorine Free

You might see a number of chlorine-related claims on paper products. The bottom line: The chlorine bleaching process produces tons of toxins that may disrupt our immune systems. If you’re looking for top-shelf eco-friendly paper products, you want to find the “100% chlorine free” claim, which means the virgin paper wasn’t bleached with chlorine at any point, or – even better – the “processed chlorine free” claim, which indicates that the recycled content wasn’t bleached with chlorine.

Acid Free

Acid-free paper production neutralizes the acids that occur in wood pulp to create longer-lasting paper that won’t yellow over time. The paper itself can last from 500 to 1,000 years, which has made it appealing to archivists and scrapbookers, but that long-lasting feature has made it a subject of numerous eco-debates. However, the process to make the paper is significantly more environmentally friendly than the process to produce standard paper. So don’t choose paper simply because it’s acid free; choose a paper that is environmentally responsible in some other way and is acid-free.

Tree-Free Fiber

A tree-free fiber claim on a paper product means that material was derived from a source other than trees. These tree-free options are usually a little more expensive but provide you with the most sustainable paper option. Tree-free fibers include animal poop, hemp, textile scraps, sugar cane husks, and more. Check out the Cherry Blossoms Large Lokta Journal or the Poo Poo Paper Elephant Silhouette Journal for tree-free fiber options.

Sustainable Certifications

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification schemes (PEFC) are both non-profit, non-governmental organizations that promote responsible forest management. Seals from these organizations indicate that paper has been approved in their certification processes. As is the case whenever multiple organizations provide the same function, there is significant debate over which certification is better; in North America, it seems the preference is for the FSC seal.

Finally, to score more eco-friendly points, look for recycled paper that is printed with soy-based ink. Traditional ink is petroleum-based, so soy is a gentler alternative.

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 Meet the Writer:Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband and their three darling dogs. View more of Maggie’s work at MaggieMarton.com

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    [...] European Paper Company have written a guide to recycled paper.  It’s a good guide for those who don’t understand what all the different phrases and [...]

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    [...] Ruled Notebook for two examples. This eco-glossary includes content from Maggie Marton’s Guide to Recycled Paper, published here on European Paper Company’s Blog. Share this:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first [...]

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