But try to imagine that you decide to do your printing somewhere else (we know its hard), you ask for recycled paper, what do you expect it to be made from?
You may think fondly of those trips to the recycling skips in the Asda car park. You may even hope that a tiny scrap of the junk mail that you carefully separated to fill the boot of your car has made it full circle back into your leaflet. You are likely to be disappointed.
The less romantically inclined amongst you may accept that 'recycled' paper may not be made entirely from millions of copies of old Guardian newspapers. However, one thing is for sure, no trees have died to produce your booklet. Think again.
The phrase 'recycled paper' is as precise as its horticultural counterpart 'organic'. That is, not very. Paper mills know that recycled paper is popular with certain end users. They also know that they can charge more for it. Finally, they have a lot of something called 'mill broke' lying about. This is pulp (dead trees) which has been on their machines, but not turned into proper paper. It is the same as virgin wood pulp and is usually reused to make ordinary paper. But, the key word here is reused. As it has been on the machine once, if you 're-use' it, you can call the end product recycled! So, some 'recycled' papers on the market contain over 50% of virgin wood pulp. This is not recycled paper, it is environmental tokenism and profit mongering.
So, how do we know what is really recycled and what is chicanery? In Britain, the National Association of Paper Merchants (NAPM) came up with a classification system to identify the proportion and source of waste fibre. To get the NAPM stamp of approval, a recycled paper cannot have more than 25% of Category A ('mill broke' and /or virgin wood pulp) in it. So, at least NAPM approved recycled paper is really 75% recycled - isn't it? Well not always.
The next category in the NAPM scheme of things, B, is 'woodfree unprinted waste'. This is made up of trimmings from the machines in the paper mills - the stuff that is left when the paper has been guillotined to size. It has never been used in any real sense. In effect, it's just more dead trees that have made it further along the paper mills production line. The term 'woodfree' is totally misleading in that it does not mean wood-free (the hypthen is important here). It simply means that the 'woody' lignins (the organic substances which form the characteristic part of all woody fibres) have been chemically removed during the pulping process. It is these lignins which cause paper to become yellow and brittle with age - like old newspapers left in the sun.
So, should you despair, stop recycling your waste paper and accept that, in order to produce your newsletter, some trees must die?
Well, no. In the '90s along came a knight in reclaimed metal body protector - Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO). In a snappily entitled publication, 'A Register of Recycled Paper and Paper Products' it came up with a new classification system which both redefined what was really recycled paper, and included a scoring system which favoured papers with post-consumer waste content.
Under this system, paper must have a 10% minimum of post -consumer waste (categories C and D in the NAPM system) to qualify as recycled. Also, 'mill broke' or virgin wood pulp does not score any points. So, we now have a way of identifying just how recycled a 'recycled paper' really is.
You may have noticed that the phrase, 'post-consumer waste crept into the last paragraph. This is the material that most of us would hope that a recycled paper should be made from. It comes in two types; 'woodfree' printed waste, and unsorted printed waste. The later is the stuff of paper banks and local recycling centres - the real McCoy. 'Woodfree' printed waste only includes paper that has had its lignins removed when originally made, and so tends to come from specific sources such as scrapped work direct from printers or discarded computer printouts.
The HMSO scoring system works like this. It uses the NAPM classification of waste content (A = 'mill broke', B = unprinted waste, ie trimmings, C = sorted printed waste, D = unsorted printed waste). It awards one point per percent of category C and D, and half a point per percent of category B, giving a maximum score of 100. Nothing for category A. The higher the score, the greater the environmental benefits.
While it would appear that the ultimate environmentally beneficial paper would be made from 100% D waste, other factors apply. Each time paper is recycled, the fibres get shorter and the paper more brittle, and so some longer fibres from higher up the chain are needed to strengthen it - or the inclusion of something else to strenghten it such as hemp. Also, lignins still present in the waste means that colours will fade and the paper will have a limited shelf life.
At marc we like to know what our paper is made from.
So, now you know what is, and what is not, 'recycled' paper, why should you use it?
To save trees!
This would seem to be the most obvious reason for using recycled paper. In fact using recycled paper has very little effect, as trees for paper making are grown and harvested just like any other plantation crop. Using recycled paper does, however, reduce the pressure to plant more and more plantations and thus can help in the prevention of the destruction of wildlife habitats. It is also true that many of the plantations used for paper making use large amounts of pesticides and, of course, vast acres of single species trees are in themselves bad for the environment and wildlife.
It saves energy!
Yes, but some people argue against this citing the amount of energy needed to de-ink, sieve and centrifuge the waste - which means that it is actually more energy efficient to use virgin pulp. If this was ever the case, it is not so now. Paper mills have invested heavily in new machinery which make use of the processes involved in reclaiming waste, to reduce the amount of energy needed in the paper making process. For instance the de-inking and cleaning of waste paper heats the pulp which saves energy later on in the process. If you add in all the costs involved in growing, cutting and transporting trees to paper mills the case for saving energy becomes overwhelming - about 50% less energy. Less energy = less fuel = less CO2
Using waste paper as a domestic raw material is also effective in reducing imports of pulp, again saving energy and resources.
The strongest argument for using recycled paper is that, if paper is not reused, it has to be disposed of. In this country this usually means landfill with all the associated problems (methane gas, destruction of the countryside etc). Incineration is in some ways less damaging and does produce energy as a by-product, but it still causes pollution and is not exactly popular.
Recycled paper production involves the use of fewer chemical processes. For instance, category C waste has already had its lignins removed and so probably the most chemically intensive part of the paper making process is by-passed.
Also, recycled paper is very rarely bleached - and if it is, it uses either oxygen or hydrogen peroxide which are both relatively environmentally friendly. The wider use of recycled paper has also increased the awareness of the problems associated with glossy paper (china clay pits) and made people less obsessed with chemically induced super white papers.
So, to sum up in one sentence: Recycled paper is easily the most 'environmentally
friendly' paper on the market, it uses many less chemicals, reduces landfill
and uses 50% less energy to produce. So, why would you want to use anything