Whilst the UK Paper Industry’s use of recovered fibre is a major success story, cellulose fibre from wood, which is a naturally renewable resource, is a fundamental raw material in papermaking. Of the fibres used to make paper in the UK, over 70% come from paper collected for recycling by households and businesses.The rest come mainly from virgin wood fibre from trees grown in sustainably managed and certified forests.
Without virgin fibres from new trees, the paper cycle can neither begin nor continue.
Paper fibres can only be recycled up to about 7 times as they increasingly degrade in the recycling process, eventually losing their papermaking qualities. The degraded fibres are replaced with new virgin fibres, either from trees or more often from recovered paper that has not previously been recycled. Without virgin fibres from new trees, the paper cycle can neither begin nor continue.
It also has to be remembered that around 19% of the paper we consume is not recyclable CEPI Myths and Realities. Sometimes we simply keep it, such as in books, wallpaper, artistic works and photographs. In other cases it deteriorates or disintegrates as in sanitary paper and cigarette paper, and others which quite literally go down the pan! Also some papers end up in products that are unsuitable for recycling.
The recycling of paper has been so successful that it is already the most recycled material in the UK – so much so that we now collect more than we can reprocess. The excess is exported for papermaking to Europe, China and the Far East, so helping to reduce the carbon footprint of papermaking around the world.
The best contribution that we can make to responsible paper consumption is through recycling, by separating used paper and board from other recyclables and putting them in the appropriate recycling containers.