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RECYCLED PAPER: EXPLODING THE MYTHS

Common Myths About Recycled Paper

MYTH: All paper is recycled now, there’s no need to ask for it.

FACT: Even at the height of its success, recycled paper only had about 10% of the printing and writing paper market and even those papers contained mostly virgin materials. Now distributors, printers and paper mills say that demand is dropping because buyers believe they no longer have to ask for recycled. Yet more than 90% of the printing and writing paper made in this country today is still virgin paper.

MYTH: All paper companies are making recycled paper, so all paper must be recycled.

FACT: Most paper companies own many mills. One or two might be making recycled, but the rest are all making virgin paper. Even many of the recycling mills are making a lot of virgin paper.

MYTH: Recycled paper jams copiers.

FACT: Today's recycled copier paper is high quality and technically perfected for use in copiers. If the paper jams in a copier, it is not because of the recycled content. It may be that the ream sat opened for a long time and absorbed moisture. Sometimes people use paper that's not formulated for copiers and then wonder why it jams. Use paper qualified as "high-speed" for high speed copiers. The machine may need cleaning or adjusting. Try another brand of recycled paper, just as you'd try another brand of virgin paper. See the Listening Study discussion of recycled content paper in copiers.

MYTH: The little fibers in recycled paper create too much dust in machines.

FACT: Excessive dust comes not from recycled fibers but from inadequate production processes or incomplete vacuuming of cut paper sides. Buy high quality paper to avoid such problems.

MYTH: It is better to focus on tree-free or chlorine-free papers.

FACT: "Tree-free" is a fiber source. "Chlorine-free" is a bleaching process. Recycling is a system necessary for environmental sustainability. Whether paper is made from trees, crops, agricultural residues, or other fibers, it needs a system to recycle it after eventual disposal. The fact that recycled paper today consists almost exclusively of tree fibers reflects only the current state of our paper supply. Tree-free and chlorine-free fibers should be combined with recycled content whenever possible, to develop a strong foundation for more environmentally sound papers.

MYTH: It is better to burn paper for energy than to recycle it.

FACT: The fibers in fine paper can be recycled up to a dozen times before becoming too short for papermaking, saving resources, water and energy, and reducing pollution each one of those times. The impact and value of these repeated savings are much greater than the minimal amount of energy produced when the paper is burned instead.

MYTH: Making recycled paper is environmentally damaging.

FACT: Recycled paper production saves trees, energy and water, produces less pollution, uses more benign chemicals, and requires less bleaching than virgin paper production. It also solves a community disposal problem. The only area in which recycled paper creates more disposal materials is in the greater amount of sludge produced than virgin papermaking. But the problem materials that fall into recycled paper sludge would otherwise have been scattered throughout landfills or concentrated in incinerator emissions or ash. Recycling mill sludge becomes an environmentally preferable way of handling potentially toxic materials such as inks and additives. The sludge of many recycling mills tests non-toxic. Sludge that tests hazardous can be disposed of by an environmentally controlled method.


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