How is paper recycled?

Have you ever wondered what happened to your paper waste once it goes into the bin? Discover the process of paper recycling in this 5-minutes video.

In 2018, 1.1 million tonnes of paper and cardboard waste were generated in Singapore and 56% of which was recycled. [1] Depending on the type and quality of the materials, paper can be transformed into new paper. This video explains the process which takes place in the UK.

1. Collection

This is the first process in the paper recycling process. Recyclers collect the paper materials from collection points such as trash bins, paper stores, paper scrap yards, and commercial outlets that generate paper waste. Paper materials are sent to the sorting plant.

2. Sorting

Once paper arrived at the facility, the paper is being sorted, measured and graded for quality. There are instances where papers are classified according to their surface treatment and structure. Once sorted, the paper bails are sent to the paper mill.

3. Shredding and Pulping

At the paper mill, the paper is shredded. It is then mixed with water and chemicals to breakdown the paper fibre and transformed it into pulp. During the pulping process, the paper material turns into a semiliquid mixture.

4. Filtering, conterminal removal and De-Inking

The mixture is then taken through a comprehensive filtering process to get rid of all the non-fibrous foreign materials present or any impurities such as strings, tape or glue. It goes into a chamber where contaminants like plastics and metals staples are removed.

Next, is the de-inking process which involves putting the pulp in a floatation device made up of chemicals and air bubbles that take away any form of dyes or ink to enhance purity and whiteness. This entire step is also called the cleaning process as it cleans the pulp over and over to ensure it is ready for the final processing stage.

5. Finishing for reuse

The cleaned pulp is blended with new production materials after which it is put to dry on a flat conveyor belt. The conveyor belt passes through a series of steam-heated cylinders which presses out excess water and dries the paper. At the end, the pulp is solid which facilitates the formation of flattened long rolls of continuous sheets of paper.

The resultant paper sheets are then trimmed, rolled, and sent to various business outlets or manufacturers that use paper to make their products. Newspaper printing, wrapping papers, printing papers, and blown-in cellulose insulators are a few examples of areas where recycled papers are used.

Although paper is a material that can be easily recycled, it still requires us to keep it clean from contamination to avoid loss of materials and downcycling. Maybe the paper you are using now was made of old paper sheets… To support the transition towards a circular economy, it is recommended that companies adopt procurement policies with a preference for the purchase of products with recycled content.

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[1] https://www.nea.gov.sg/our-services/waste-management/waste-statistics-and-overall-recycling

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About Zero Waste City

Zero Waste City is a consulting business specialised in waste reduction for commercial and industrial facilities. We help companies to save money by reducing waste and to achieve Zero Waste goals. Our services include:

Our services include:

  • Waste audit (quantifying waste streams and identifying immediate cost saving opportunities)
  • Compliance with regulations such as:
    • Mandatory Packaging Reporting
    • Mandatory Waste Reporting
    • Mandatory Food Waste Segregation
  • Project implementation and on-going support
  • Measurement and Verification of savings
  • Guidance to achieve Zero Waste goals and certifications.