How is Paper Recycled?

Table of Contents

How is paper made?

Paper, which is a thin sheet of cellulose fibers made from wood, grasses, or other vegetable sources, is made in large factories called paper mills. The process of making paper involves a few major steps.


First, the cellulose fibers are converted to pulp. Then, the pulp is mixed with water and placed on paper making machines. These machines convert the pulp–water mixture into flat, dry, and neatly cut paper sheets and rolls. Thus, the paper may used, for example, in notebooks, in magazines, and even in textbooks.

How is paper a problem?

Paper is certainly useful and may even be considered essential. However, producing paper leads to deforestation, uses large amounts of energy and water, and also causes air pollution and waste problems.


Deforestation is the cutting down of trees or forests. Around the world, 42% of deforestation is to obtain wood to make paper. A total of 386 million hectares (3.86 million kilometers) of forests were cleared from 2001 to 2019. This loss was a 10% decrease in global forest area since 2000.


In addition to deforestation, energy and water are also used on a large scale in paper-making. Almost twice the amount of energy is needed to make paper compared to the amount of energy needed to make a plastic bag. Also, to produce a single sheet of paper, around two to thirteen liters (0.5 to 3.5 gallons) of water are used.


Pulp and paper industries are the third biggest industrial polluters of air, water, and soil. Chlorine-based bleaches used in the production of paper lead to the release of toxic material. As waste, paper contributes around 26% towards landfill waste and 33% towards municipal waste. When paper waste rots, it releases of methane gas which is 80 times more potent in causing global warming as CO2.


Although it was predicted that the increase in the use of electronics would lead to less use of paper, this did not occur. In fact, the demand for paper is expected to double before 2030. Paper is certainly a problem at present. Paper is potentially a problem of the future as well! What measures may be taken to solve this paper problem? What is paper recycling?

What is recycling?

The three Rs – “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” – are widely known processes for waste management. These processes are important for protecting the environment along with decreasing the resources used and the energy consumed.


Recycling is the process of recovering waste materials and making them into new materials and objects. Recycling prevents the waste of useful materials and reduces the consumption of fresh raw materials, and also reduces energy use, air pollution, and water pollution.


Materials such as glass, cardboard, metal, plastic, tires, textiles, batteries, electronics, and paper may be recycled. Thus, in the process of recycling, materials are collected, cleaned, restored, treated, and then made into new products.


What types of paper may be recycled? Many types, including white office paper, newspaper, colored office paper, cardboard, white computer paper, magazines, catalogues, and even telephone books!


Even you can do your bit to recycle paper and waste materials you find around. Crafting something out of waste material can be a great way to recycle. Here are some ideas.

How is paper recycled?

Paper is recycled by collecting paper waste and taking it to a paper recycling plant. This paper waste is separated and then cleaned with soap to break it down. Once broken down, the paper waste is exposed to heat. Eventually, it breaks down into cellulose.


This cellulose appears as a pulp or slurry. However, this pulp has been made from recycled paper and not from wood, grasses, or other vegetable sources as in the process of making new paper. Another difference between paper recycling and making new paper is that there are screens used in the paper recycling process. These screens are used to remove any ink or plastic present in the old paper waste. The process of removing ink from paper is known as deinking. After deinking and removal of plastic from plastic-coated paper, the mixture is washed with bleach.


By adding different amounts of chemicals and materials to the slurry, different types of paper can be made. The slurry is then rolled into thin sheets using large rollers to make large paper sheets. Then, the paper sheets are exposed to heat for drying. Afterwards, the sheets are cut, and the paper is made ready to use again.


This way of recycling paper is an important process to limit the amount of waste and to reduce pollution. Old newspapers, notebooks, and magazines may be recycled. However, paper dirtied by food, carbon paper, or stickers cannot always be recycled.

Why is recycling paper better than using new paper?

In conclusion, most of our waste material may be recycled, especially paper! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees, more than 3.3 cubic yards (2.52 cubic meters) of landfill space, around 1,400 liters of oil, and 26,500 liters of water.


Recycling paper helps to reduce greenhouse gases which can lead to climate change and global warming. Our energy resources and water are also saved through the process of recycling paper. It takes 70% less energy and water to recycle paper than to create new paper from trees.


The use of recycled paper in industries decreases air and water pollution. This prevents problems like smog that result from air pollution. Lastly, recycling of paper reduces deforestation and paper waste.


Thus, recycling paper is a boon for the environment. What measures can we take to recycle paper?

Paper through the environment
Paper through the environment, Credit: Education


cellulose: a tough substance found in plant cell walls and in vegetable fibers


deforestation: the removal of a forest or groups of trees from land


deinking: removing ink from (paper being recycled)


global warming: the long-term warming of the overall temperature of the planet


greenhouse gases: gases in the Earth’s atmosphere which trap heat


recycling: is the process of recovering waste materials and making them into new materials and objects


smog: a mixture of smoke, gases, and chemicals, especially in cities, that makes it difficult to breathe and is harmful for health


bleach: a liquid chemical used to whiten or sterilize

Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: 8.1


Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease: 60.2

Casey, R. How is paper made?

How does shredding and recycling paper help the environment? (2015, July 27).

Paper Waste Facts.


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