European Recovered Paper Council

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Natural limits

Recovered paper cannot be efficiently used in all paper grades, nor can it be used indefinitely. Paper recycling needs to continuously incorporate a certain amount of fresh fibres for three main reasons:

  • Strength:
    • Cellulose fibre deteriorates each time it is recycled.
    • Depending upon the type of paper being made, it can be reused several times.
  • Quality:
    • While most, if not all, paper and board grades could be made of 100% recovered paper, some products need top quality recovered paper, (like cuttings and shavings from printers), which is not widely available.
    • Some paper and board grades make little or no use of recovered fibre because certain properties are better and more economically provided by virgin pulp. This can be partly due to the quality requirements of the end-product, such as high-grade artwork, or the technical characteristics needed for many special purpose grades, such as security paper, which prevents fraudulent use of documents.
  • Availability:
    • Around 19% of the paper we use is not possible to collect or recycle.
    • Some paper products are not sent for recycling - for example, books, documents and photographs kept at home or in archives and libraries.
    • In other cases, paper products deteriorated or are destroyed when used - such as sanitary paper or cigarette paper.
    • As paper production grows, recovered fibres alone are insufficient to produce all new papers.
    • Additionally, it is not always economically viable or environmentally sound to collect every piece of paper due to the heavy transportation that would be required.