Dear Ms. Cards Etiquette,
Every one talks about how good it is to recycle paper, but really, how is recycled paper made?
Science Kid at Heart
That’s a great question, Kid. And, Ms. Cards Etiquette had to do a little bit of homework to learn about how recycled paper is actually made. In very general terms, the used paper must be cleaned and have the old ink removed from it before it can be made into regular paper. Interestingly enough, after the paper is cleaned into clean paper pulp, the process is much the same as making regular virgin paper.
But, let’s start from the beginning.
First, the paper is put into a large bin and water is added so that a new paper pulp can be made. Large beaters, similar to a giant cake mixer, stir in the paper so that the fibers are separated from each other. This is then put through a screen to remove large contaminants that are bigger than the pulp fibers. The pulp slurry may also be put through centrifuge to remove materials that are more dense than pulp fibers. This process also removes foreign material from the slurry.
Next, the ink removal must happen. This is done by passing air bubbles through the slurry. This slurry contains what is called a surfacent. The surfacent is a kind of detergent and that reduces the surface tension of water and allows for the ink to float to the surface. Very little of the surfacent is needed to make this happen. (This is sometimes called the de-inking process.)
Once the slurry is de-inked, the pulp is kneaded and washed to remove small particles. Then, if the paper is to be white, the pulp is bleached to remove all color.
Clean fiber is now ready to be made into paper. And the process is exactly the same to make paper from recycled pulp as it is from virgin tree pulp.
The paper pulp is sprayed into a long wide screen which is called a wire. The pulp stays on top of the screen and the water in it drains out the bottom. This water is siphoned off to be used over and over. The paper pulp fiber mat is squeezed between felt covered rollers to absorb the rest of the water.
Next, the wet paper passes through hot metal rollers to heat and dry the sheets. The paper is also pressed through big heavy cast iron rollers to press the paper into a smooth and uniform thickness. (If you have ever made pasta the process is exactly the same: the paper is put through rollers that gradually get closer and closer together to make the paper thinner.)
The paper is then put onto rolls about the size of a small car. Each roll can easily weigh 2 tons. These giant rolls are called “jumbo rolls” and all paper — from the thermal paper used at the gas station pump to printer paper sheets and newsprint are cut from these jumbo rolls.
The good news about this process is that the process of making paper from recycled paper uses 40% less energy than if paper is made from unrecycled pulp. So buying recycled paper really does make the world a little greener.
CardsDirect has a good selection of cards made from recycled paper. In the future, we are going to add more to our stock.