Chlorine Free Paper Issues


Environmental Groups
Environmental Paper Advocates

Some environmental groups and advocates have particular expertise in environmental paper issues. They are likely to add perspectives and information, whether through research, testing, or experience, that others may not.

We include Conservatree's perspectives in this section, as well. This is where we think it is appropriate to add our opinions based on experience over decades of interaction with environmental paper markets, both to include our expertise but also to give the reader a basis for evaluating our biases. Although we hold opinions on many questions in the Listening Study, our intent is to express them only in clearly identified quotes or sections such as this one, similar to everyone else's opportunities to comment. In the rest of each report, we hope that the body of quotes speak for themselves, without filtering through our lens. If you believe we did not succeed at that, please let us know so we can correct it.

"Compared to the same type of virgin fibers used in the same application, recycled fibers have different properties. . . . Generally speaking, recycled fibers have reduced bonding potential compared to their virgin counterparts, which tends to reduce strength and requires compensation in the manufacturing process. In some circumstances, however, recycled fibers may also impart desired qualities to the paper sheet, such as smoothness and dimensional stability. . . .
      [T]he Task Force has found that large quantities of recycled-content papers are available that meet specifications and perform comparably to virgin paper. . . . [T]he quality of paper with recycled content is generally not a barrier to purchasing at levels of postconsumer recycled content that are now available. . . .
      At the very upper edge of the spectrum, the highest-quality virgin paper may have a slight advantage over the highest-quality recycled paper, but there are many recycled-content papers that perform as well as virgin paper and some that perform better than their virgin counterparts. The age, capabilities and operation of papermaking equipment have a greater impact on the properties of the finished paper than its recycled or virgin content.
      Papermakers adjust for the differing properties of recycled fiber in numerous ways in the manufacturing process. . . . Many of the adjustments made on the paper machine to compensate for the properties of recycled fiber are analogous to those made to compensate for attributes of different tree species, for example." - Paper Task Force Report, Environmental Defense Fund, 1995, p. 83

"Based on extensive interviews with paper and equipment manufacturers, the Task Force found that frequency of copier machine jams is not correlated with the use of recycled-content paper. The majority of jams are a function of several factors, such as two-sided copying, the speed and condition of equipment, the quality of the paper being used ([no matter] whether it is recycled or virgin) and operator errors." - Paper Task Force Report, Environmental Defense Fund, 1995, p. 90

"People still frequently tell me that they are afraid to use recycled paper in copiers because they think it will jam or dust so much it will damage the machine. Someone even told me that they are afraid that bits of staples and paper clips recycled with the fibers will scratch the copying machine drum. I felt they needed more understanding about how recycled paper is made. Another insisted that recycled paper 'has a noxious odor when it goes through the copier.'
      Yet paper manufacturers tell me that their recycled paper meets the same specifications as their virgin paper, thousands of offices across North America using all kinds of copiers report that they're using recycled paper with no problems, and every copier equipment manufacturer Conservatree has interviewed over the past six years has assured us that their copiers have no problems running recycled paper. In fact, many state and local governments include requirements when they're buying copiers that the equipment must be guaranteed to run recycled paper and I have not heard of any copier company that has opted out of bidding because of that requirement.
      Still, I can't discount end-users' reports. There must be reasons for them. Yet I have found many of them difficult to pin down. For example:

  • When I ask for details on the problems, people frequently tell me, 'Oh, it was years ago.' But we don't expect today's computers, or calculators, or cars, or other technological products to be the same as they were years ago. So why paper? Is it because it doesn't 'look' different over the years? Why does experience from years ago have such a strong impact on people's perceptions today?
  • When people tell me that using recycled paper will void their warranty, I always ask for a copy of the warranty. I have only gotten one copy, and that was for an office printer over ten years ago. Where are all the others? Do they really exist? The copier equipment companies tell us no. Did they exist in the past but not now? If there are still such warranty prohibitions out there, I'd like to get copies of them, to get to the bottom of this problem.
  • One government staff person told me that her office used recycled paper in all their copiers except for the one used by the top executives. That one, she insisted, constantly jammed when people used recycled paper in it. I said, 'Let's check that out, then, and solve that problem. What kind of copier is it? How often is it jamming? How do they know it's because of recycled paper?' She interviewed the people who used that copier - and discovered that the problem had disappeared long ago, but the belief had not. In fact, it had continued spreading to more and more people. This seems to be a common occurrence.
  • I notice that when people say recycled paper is causing problems, the information they give, more times than you would expect, tells me that they're using old recycled paper - sometimes several years old, or they're using types of paper that were not made to run through high speed copiers. Paper absorbs moisture from the air, whether it's virgin or recycled paper. It needs a particular moisture balance and type of finishing to run properly in copiers and high-heat office printers. A couple of copier papers are meant to be used only in copiers or laser printers, not in ink jet printers. Because they are not sized (surface-sealed) for use in ink jet printers, the ink may blur the letters slightly if they are used in them. Yet people using old papers or the wrong type of papers still tend to assume that recycled fibers are to blame when the paper doesn't run well.
  • I have heard of several blind tests (alas, not always written up) in which the paper users were relieved to finally get 'some good copier paper for a change after that awful recycled paper' - only to find that the 'good copier paper' they were relieved to get is also recycled paper. So much seems to be psychological.

      I want to clear away the recycled paper blame that comes from old experiences, old or inappropriate grades of paper, improper paper storage, improperly adjusted copiers, and misunderstandings about the rigorousness of the deinking process. Then let's deal with today's reality and today's recycled papers. This would not do away with every problem and every complaint - every product, including virgin papers, has some problems in some cases - but it would allow the ones that remain to be resolved in a fact-based manner, just as they are with virgin paper. Especially, it would allow paper purchasers and paper users to buy today's recycled paper with confidence, rather than with the uncertainty and suspicion that seems too common today.
      The fact that high profile copier equipment manufacturers such as Xerox and office printer manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard provide recycled paper under their brand names should make paper buyers and paper users confident that recycled paper is appropriate for office machines." - Susan Kinsella, Conservatree

"When compared head-to-head against virgin fiber papers, recycled papers are almost universally held to not have comparatively better performance. However, many respondents weren't sure if there was any discernible difference, and many saw no difference in quality, either. When asked, 'For each statement, please indicate whether there is any discernible difference between recycled content vs. virgin fiber paper,' respondents answered as follows:

Virgin Fiber
Recycled Fiber
No Difference
Less apt to jam in office machines
Less paper dust produced
More visually appealing
Better quality in photocopying
Better quality in computer printing
Source: "Following the Paper Trail" study, Aurora Institute/Reach for Unbleached (Vancouver, BC, Canada), 2003

It would appear that many people, even at the dedicated procurement manager level, lack a baseline of knowledge of the performance capacities of virgin fiber vs. recycled content/chlorine free papers. Of those that do have some knowledge, much of this should be chalked up to perception based on innuendo rather than tested facts. The mythology of quality difference remains, despite solid evidence that quality gaps have been fixed in the past decade." - Following the Paper Trail study, Aurora Institute/Reach for Unbleached (Vancouver, BC, Canada), 2003

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