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Paper Recycling Explained

Did you know that South Africa has averaged a paper collection rate of 70% since 2017?

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Paper recycling is the collection and processing of used paper products to make new paper products, and involves a number of steps before it even gets to the paper mill.

Step One:

Paper recycling starts with you, the consumer. By keeping your paper products out of the rubbish bin and in a separate container or bag, you are separating-at-source. Separation-at-source is perhaps one of the most important steps in the paper recycling process.

Step Two:

Keep your paper recycling clean and dry until it is collected. There are various options available, depending on where you live in South Africa.

Step Three:

Drop your recycling off at a recycling centre, Mpact paper bank or have it collected.

One of the best ways to support South Africa’s recycling efforts is to place your bag of recyclables aside for your local waste collectors who will earn money when they take the materials to a buy-back centre. The cleaner the recyclable, the better their earning potential.

Step Four:

Once you’ve let go of it, a collector or company will take it to a buy-back centre or sorting facility where the paper products are sorted and baled into their various “grades” – such as newspaper, magazines, white paper, cardboard boxes, paper cups or milk and juice cartons, and mixed papers. This is because the same types of paper products are also recycled together and require different treatment during the paper recycling process.

Paper recycling mills use post-production/pre-consumer sources (offcuts or rejects from the papermaking, conversion or printing phases, over-runs of printed material such as newspapers) or post-consumer sources, i.e. after a consumer has used it.

Step Five:

The bales of the paper products are sent by conveyor into the pulper – a giant industrial blender – where water is added to make a pulp slurry or soup. The pulp is then passed through a variety of screens and filters to extract other contaminants (dirt, staples, plastic etc.) before being delivered to the paper machine where it is formed and dried into jumbo reels of paper.

Paper fibres will shorten each time they are repulped and refined – a cardboard box might contain fibres that are on the second cycle or last cycle. Once paper fibres have been recycled six to seven times, they will pass through the sieves and be classed as sludge. It is for this reason that virgin/fresh wood fibre (in the form of pulp sheets) will be used to “boost” pulp recipes and add strength.

Paper recycling mills use post-production/pre-consumer sources (offcuts or rejects from the papermaking, conversion or printing phases, over-runs of printed material such as newspapers) or post-consumer sources, i.e. after a consumer has used it.

Step Six:

Large jumbo rolls will be sent to a converter who will make paper packaging – such as paper bags or cardboard boxes. Some paper requires different layers; a white layer or printing and grey layer on the inside such as a cereal box.

Many tissue mills will make tissue paper and paper towel using recycled paper.

What Types of Products Are Made From Recycled Paper?

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