Chlorine Free Paper Issues

 

LISTENING STUDY Question 52:
Can tree free papers be recycled?

Yes, agricultural fibers can be recycled. As fibers are recycled the fibers get shorter. One of the advantages in agricultural fibers is that they have various lengths. Jute and Kenaf have lengths as long as 7 mm. The quality of paper can be tailored accordingly by using long or short fibers. - James S. Han, Research Chemist, USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory

Yes, agricultural fibers can generally be recycled, but any recycled fiber is subject to degradation after consecutive cycles. The ultimate viability of recycled agricultural fibers will be determined by the products made from these fibers, and the demand for these papers in the market. - International Paper

Any cellulose fiber can be recycled. The shorter the fiber gets, the less value it has in the process. - Jeff Lindenthal, President, Green Field Paper Company

Yes. - Jeanne Trombly, Fiber Futures

Yes. The degree to which they can be recycled depends on the fiber. 100 percent flax or hemp or other long bast fibers can probably be recycled three times as much as wood. Cereal straw residues are short fibers and cannot be recycled as many times. - Living Tree Paper Company

Yes, but even most poor papermaking fibers can make it through the recycling process when the makeup of tree-free fibers is a small percentage of the furnish. If one intends to expand the use of tree-free fibers out of a specialty market, the fiber must efficiently mix with tree-fibers. Fibers that are too long or too short can interfere with draining and may have a short lifespan. A strong papermaking fiber such as kenaf can be recycled at least as well as tree fibers. - Tom Rymsza, President, Vision Paper

Of course, it can be recycled.
      See, for example, my presentation, "Experience in the Technical and Market Development of Agri-Pulp Printing Papers in North America." - Al Wong, Founder, Arbokem

Yes, there are no barriers. Ag-fiber papers have longer, stronger, and tougher fibers than most tree fibers, so they generally enhance the recycled fiber supply. - Peter Hopkins, Environmental Papers Consultant for Crane Paper Company, Gargan Communications

Tree-free papers should be able to be recycled several times. Given the current technology, the nonwood fibers would not actually be longer in a real-world setting. Therefore, they don't give any advantage when mixed into the recycled paper slurry.
      When processed for specific purposes, the nonwoods can have much longer fibers, which is why they are stronger than comparable wood fibers. Technically, they do well for being thin because of the longer fibers, hence they are used in cigarette filters, tea bags, etc. To say that nonwood fibers add strength to recycled papers is unproven and would require scientific study. - Jeff Mendelson, President, New Leaf Paper

Most nonwood fibers are thinner than wood fibers and more fragile to mechanical treatment. Deinking during recycling involves fairly strong mechanical action. Therefore there is some worry and some evidence that nonwood fibers would break down more than wood fibers during the recycling process.
      Yes, they can be recycled but the recovered yield will be lower than for wood fibers. - Michael Jackson, Consultant, Tolovana Park, OR

Yes, agricultural fibers can be recycled. In fact a good market opportunity for long, agricultural fibers is to help extend the amount of times pulp can be recycled, by offering strength.
      There should be no problem in recycling nonwoods. All papers have a given life-span, or number of times they can be recycled. The nonwood paper life span should be on par with virgin pulp papers. - Peter A. Nelson, President, AgroTech Communications, Inc.

One of the optimal mixes is a blended recycled paper and Arundo donax. - Ernett Altherimer, Founder and Chairman, Nile Fiber

Preliminary studies have examined the effects of pulping and recycling on kenaf. It has been shown that most nonwoods have a lower lignin content than wood and that it is easier to delignify nonwoods, as they have a lower activation energy. There have also been investigations into the changes suffered by fibers during the recycling of wheat straw pulps. The results of this work implied that wheat straw pulp did not behave differently from wood pulp during recycling. - Pande 1998

The biggest issues might be color - when recyclers want post-consumer waste, they want white paper. They might not want the nonwood papers if they are not as bright. - Russell Clark, Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program. US EPA

We would like to see more information on this topic. Post consumer waste should be able to be used about 7x before it is not usable. We would like to know the lifetime of the nonwood papers. Also, we'd like to know if alternative fibers can satisfy the requirements for virgin pulp in the recycling industry. - Tyson Miller, Program Director, Recycled Products Purchasing Cooperative

The industry has very limited experience with this question. Our evaluation found no difference on recyclability. We would expect similar characteristics as with wood fibers - recycling them results in shorter fiber length (the repulping causes breakage and shortening). - Richard Denison, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Environmental Defense

Recycling of nonwoods fibers: In considering the impact of alternative fibers on the global fiber supply, at some point the potential for recycling nonwood fibers must be established. Preliminary studies have examined the effects of pulping and recycling of kenaf. It has been shown that most nonwoods have a lower lignin content that wood and that it is easier to delignify nonwoods, as they have a lower activation energy (Pande and Roy, 1996). There have also been investigations into the changes suffered by fibers during the recycling of wheat straw pulps (Xumei and Xiachun, 1996). The results of this work implied that wheat straw pulp did not behave differently from wood pulp during recycling. - Pande 1998, citing Pande, H. & Roy, D.N. 1996 and Xumei, Z. & Xiachun, Y. 1996.

Another question raised about the technical feasibility of using non-wood fibers for papermaking is their recyclability. In general, non-wood fibers are as recyclable as wood fibers and the same issues exist. The strength of pulp made from recovered fibers determines its usefulness. Fiber length as well as fiber bonding ability determine pulp strength. Recovered fibers on average, are shorter than virgin fibers and lose strength with each reuse cycle. For nonwood fibers that are generally shorter than wood fibers (such as wheat straw), issues such as slow drainage and low strength are a problem both in virgin production and recovered fiber paper production.       On the other hand, non-wood fibers with greater fiber length (such as kenaf or hemp bast fibers) can be used to compensate for loss in pulp strength from recycling. Depending on the strength of the non-wood fiber, more or less virgin pulp has to be added to the deinked pulp to produce high quality recycled paper. - Environmental Defense Fund Paper Task Force, White Paper 13, "Non-Wood Fiber Sources"

We have very successfully recycled kenaf paper to prove its compatibility with existing systems. We have taken tons of kenaf waste paper to commercial scale mills and blended it with wood based waste paper with excellent results. We regularly blend kenaf pulp with recycled pulps. - Tom Rymsza, President, Vision Paper

We have heard concerns that agricultural residues might create problems with recycling, but we do not know whether these are true or not. The concerns have to do with the short ag res fibers falling out of the system and clogging the machinery. We assume that a clogging problem could be corrected technologically. A problem with the fibers being too short to recycle might be of more concern. We believe that recycling is a fundamental foundation for an environmentally sustainable paper production system. If papers with ag residue fibers were "one-way papers" because they could not be recycled, that would land us back where recycling started. Even though the ag residues would be recycled from a waste material to begin with, most are combined with other types of fibers to bring in the attributes that they lack. Large fiber losses at the recycling mills could undermine that system. So we believe it is important that this question be answered and any problems resolved early in the development of production systems for agricultural residue papers. - Susan Kinsella, Conservatree


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