Paper Recycling

The Environmental Impact

Nowadays when humanity is facing a global ecological crisis, the concept of sustainable development is the only way to decrease the negative impacts on the environment. While world production is rising more and more, the total amount of wastes is also growing up dramatically. The paper production is a significant sector in the total world industry, and the consumption of paper and board is rapidly growing and varies from one country to another. Statistically, just one person uses approximately 60 kg of paper per year (Bajpai 2014), which gives a total hundred of million tonnes every year. That is why it is crucial to analyse the life cycle of paper and board from cradle (forest) to grave (disposal) and improve the ways of waste treatment that exist now, and find novel ones.

There is an opinion in society that paper is an environment-friendly, biocompatible and recyclable material that has remarkable advantages. However, the first two stages of the paper life cycle, such as processing fibres from raw materials and further turning them into paper, including bleaching and cleaning, cause severe damage to the environment, namely air pollution and water contamination. Also, the first and second stages of the paper life cycle are the most energy-consuming. Hence, it is important to highlight that paper becomes eco-friendly only when secondary fibres, obtained from waste paper and board, are used in its production instead of/or in addition to virgin fibres to decrease the impact of the first two ‘dirty’ stages of paper life cycle on the environment.

Paper Waste – What Is It Good For? Why Humanity Needs to Recycle Paper Waste

In this chapter we will pay attention to the last stage of the paper life cycle - the ‘grave’ or in the case of sustainable approach the ‘new life’ - regarding the concept of 3 Rs which includes reduction, reuse, and recycling. Paper recycling is the process of extracting the cellulose fibres from the mixture of waste paper and/or board for further reuse in different productions, usually in the manufacturing of new paper and board. So, if people collect and recycle waste paper, it will reduce the amount of forest resources that are used for paper production, and it will help to prevent such serious ecological problems as soil degradation and erosion, habitat damage, and reducing biodiversity. In addition to this, the sustainable approach will reduce the number of wastes in landfills.

Reducing wastes is well suited to diminish all three triple bottom-ups, as it is depicted in Figure 4.1.

Advantages of paper recycling

FIGURE 4.1 Advantages of paper recycling.

Paper Wastes as a Valuable Secondary Raw Material

Paper and board products, once they have been collected and processed for further recycling, become a valuable secondary raw material and should no longer be considered as waste (COST Action 2009); however, in this chapter we will use the term ‘waste paper’ as a synonym for the term ‘recovered paper’ to define used paper and board collected and processed for further applications.

Recycled fibres play a significant role in paper industry as a substitute for virgin pulps. The paper recycling process is becoming more and more effective for the reuse of secondary fibres due to the fact that ink removal operations develop rapidly (Bajpai 2014). The authorities in collaboration with organizations which are responsible for the monitoring of recovered paper in different countries set new challenges to increase the amount of paper recovery, for instance, in the USA a goal of 70% (see Better Practices Better Planet 2020 initiative of American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA Sustainability Report 2018)) was established, while in the EU, which is the world leader in paper and board recycling, the same target was 74% (Monitoring Report 2017) by 2020. Developing countries also take part in such programmes. According to Ha Noi 3R Declaration - Sustainable 3R Goals for Asia and the Pacific for 2013-2023 (Ha Noi 3R Declaration 2013), Asian countries set a goal to achieve significant increase in recycling rate of paper as well as other recy- clables. For instance, India has created a market for waste paper by incentivizing the production of recycled paper (Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in South Asia 2017). So, though there are significant regional variations in waste paper collection and utilization, globally the majority of countries prioritize recycling of waste paper.

Obviously, such concerns from authorities and public organizations are caused by a number of good reasons.

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