Recycling information

Paper and cardboard are some of the most valuable recyclable materials in the UK. Around eight million tonnes of paper and cardboard is recovered in the UK every year – half of which is sent to UK paper mills for recycling, while the other half is exported.

Despite its recyclability, the average UK family still throws away six trees worth of paper in their rubbish bin every year, when each tonne of recycled paper saves the equivalent of 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 3m³ of landfill space, 4,000 kwh of energy and 7,000 gallons of water.

Waste paper is recycled through a shredding and pulping process to turn it back into different grades of paper. Issues with paper recycling largely concern removing contaminants and the wrong kind of paper from the waste stream: paper which includes non-paper additives, such as wrapping paper or gummed paper, is often too poor a quality to be recycled.

Cardboard undergoes a similar recycling process to paper, but must remain separate from the paper stream to avoid brown marks on the new paper.

You can learn more about how to recycle paper on the Wales Recycles website.

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Recycling benefit

Amount recycled 136,740t
CO2 avoided 75,207t
Estimated disposal saving £15,451,575

Recycling process

  1. Collection and separation: Waste paper and cardboard are collected from the kerbside and put in large recycling containers with other paper and cardboard. It is then taken to a paper mill where it is separated into types and grades.

  2. Shredding and Pulping: The separated paper is then shredded and mixed with water and chemicals to break down the paper fibres and create pulp, which is then passed through screens to remove larger contaminants. This is then mixed with new pulp to help it to solidify and form a firmer end product. The new pulp for cardboard contains wood chips to make it thicker.

  3. Filtering:  Clean paper pulp is then placed in a centrifugal spinning machine to separate more contaminants - plastics rise to the top while metals fall to the bottom.

  4. De-inking: The pulp is de-inked by putting it into a flotation device with chemicals and air bubbles which take away any dyes or inks and improve whiteness. Hydrogen peroxide may be added to bleach the pulp.

  5. Finishing: Cleaned pulp is blended with new production materials and left to dry on a flat conveyor belt and heated cylindrical surfaces. It then passes through a machine that presses out excess water before passing through steam heated cylinders that allow the formation of flattened long rolls of paper. The paper sheets are then trimmed and rolled and sent to businesses. Cardboard undergoes the same process except the long rolls of cardboard are stuck together to make liner board, or have grooves cut in them by huge metal rollers to make corrugated cardboard, to which flat linerboards are added later.

Where does Wales’ Paper recycling go?

Top 12 countries (selected materials)

Where does Wales’ Paper recycling go?

Top 12 countries (selected materials)

Top 10 UK recycling destinations

Top world recycling destinations