How Many Times Can Paper Be Recycled?

Paper ready to be recycled.
Paper ready to be recycled.

Every day, thousands of tons of paper are used all around the world. Paper is used in schools and colleges for academic writing, in communication through letters, forms, etc., as packaging material, in hygiene as tissue paper, etc. Given its numerous uses, it is very crucial that we recycle paper rather than throw it away into a trash can or the landfill.

Formation Of Paper

The general process of paper making involves four to five steps. Fiber is mixed with special chemicals and additives. It is then refined and mixed with water to make a slurry. The slurry is then screened and drained of water. The mud can be achieved through gravity or through the use of vacuum machines to suck water out of the mixture. Different presses and driers will then dry the wet paper entirely after which big bales are made from it.

Recycling Process

The recycling process will usually depend on whether the paper needs to be de-inked or not. It also depends on the grades of paper that need to be recycled. As such, the process starts with sorting, shredding and chopping then pulping, cleaning, de-inking, draining, drying, and squeezing through heated rollers and finally re-packaging of the paper for distribution. The paper should be sorted into grade categories which like printing and writing (white office paper), old corrugated cardboard, newspapers, etc. The white office paper has the highest ranking for reusing but is relatively difficult to assemble.

How Many Times Can We Recycle Paper?

Paper is made out of trees that contain various organic compounds that break down over time. The scent of old books and newspapers is merely the gases released by these organic compounds as they breakdown within books. Rough estimates put the number of times that fibers from trees can undergo recycling at between three to six times. In the United States, the Environmental protection Agency estimates that recycling of any paper is only possible between five to seven times. The cellulose fibers in paper cannot last indefinitely as plastics do. Every recycling process takes a toll on them, reducing their strength and ability to withstand the forces involved in the process. Long fibers are best suited for the recycling process. These are primarily used in office paper and magazines. However, with each subsequent step, the cellulose fibers weaken and become coarse and short.


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