At present less than 25% of the paper in use is recycled and the rest is produced from wood pulp. Increasing the volume of recycled paper could reduce the pressure on the world's valuable timber resources.
Recycled paper has to be de-inked and then chemically treated to separate the fibres. Different grades of waste paper have different recycling values: waste paper from offices which is high-quality paper and only lightly inked, is particularly valuable.
The manufacture of recycled paper uses only half the amount of energy and water used in making virgin paper. New paper is often white, not because this is paper's natural colour but because it is bleached. The bleach used in making white pulp can cause appalling water pollution. Toxic wastes such as dioxin are amongst the other wastes discharged from pulp mills. Yet until recently there was little control of the waste being discharged. Recycled paper tends to be slightly grainy and grey or light green. There is no need to use bright-white paper when a high quality recycled paper could easily be substituted for most uses.
Waste paper can also be used as animal bedding, fuel logs and pellets and, suitably treated, as insulation in the home. Waste products can become a resource with a little ingenuity.
Action: Making recycled paper
Soak some old newspapers in a bucket overnight and drain off the extra water. Using a liquidiser or wooden spoon mash the paper and water into a pulp. Put the pulp into a bowl, add an equal volume of water and mix these together. Slide a wire mesh into the mixture and lift it out covered in pulp. Lay a cloth on a clean, flat surface. Place the mesh, with the pulp side down, quickly and carefully onto the cloth. Press it down hard, then peel off, leaving the pulp on the cloth. Put another cloth on top and press down firmly. Repeat these steps with the remaining pulp. Place a plastic bag on the top and weight the pile down. After several hours gently peel the paper off the cloths. Leave the pieces on some kitchen towel until completely dry. The paper should now be ready for use.Read More: Recycling Oil