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.
Cardboard/Paper is separated from other materials, if necessary
It’s sorted and graded into different categories. Cardboard is sent to a mill to be recycled. High quality paper is sent to a paper mill
Cardboard/Paper is pulped inside a tank containing water and chemicals, which separates the ‘fibres’
Fibres are screened to filter out labels and glass, metal, plastic or adhesive elements. It’s cleaned by being spun in a cone-shaped container
Colouring agents are added if needed and the pulp mixture is pumped onto a paper machine
It’s sprayed onto a fast-moving mesh surface, which forms a sheet and removes much of the water
It’s pressed to remove more water and passed through large, heated rollers, until it has the correct moisture content and thickness levels
Once dry, it’s wound onto huge rolls
Cardboard: The rolls are divided into smaller reels, packed and stored until they’re sent to a ‘packaging converter’ to create new cardboard packaging items, such as cardboard boxes
Paper: The rolls are divided into smaller reels, packed and stored until they’re sent to create new products, such as:
• writing paper