The seven lives of paper

Published 16 February 2017
Paper is one of the biggest success stories of recycling: in Europe, over 70 per cent of paper is recycled. In addition to being a renewable product, paper has a high recyclability value. In fact, paper fibre can be reused up to seven times.

According to the Confederation of European Paper Industries, paper is the most recycled product in Europe, and Europe is the leader of paper recycling, followed by North America. Actually, two tonnes of paper is recycled in Europe every second, according to the European Recovered Paper Council.One reason for this is undeniably the clear business case: recycling is both economically and ecologically sensible. For the paper industry, reusing paper as a raw material improves material efficiency and supports sustainability targets. Up to 50 per cent of the raw material used by the European paper industry is waste paper, Paper for Recycling (PfR). The rest is wood, which is a renewable source and important to keep up the fibre loop – without paper made from fresh fibre there would not be recycled paper.

Over 70% of paper is recycled in Europe.

“Typically, paper can be recycled up to seven times. It is suitable for products with a short life cycle, such as newspaper and magazine paper,” says Chris De Hollander, Mill Manager of Stora Enso’s Langerbrugge Mill in Belgium.

Stora Enso is one of the largest users of recovered paper in Europe. In total, 26 per cent of all fibre used in paper and board production at Stora Enso mills is PfR. At three mills – Langerbrugge Mill and Sachsen Mill in Germany, and Dawang Mill in China – Paper for Recycling accounts for 100 per cent of sourced fibre. Additionally, over 75 per cent of sourced fibre comes from recycling at Maxau Mill in Germany and 50 per cent at Hylte Mill in Sweden.

Effective sorting prevents impurities

To keep the flow of raw material steady, there is a need for efficient paper collecting and sorting. In addition to national collection schemes and the infrastructure provided by municipalities, consumers have a key role by sorting used packaging, newspapers and magazines, for example.

When collected waste paper arrives at a mill it contains a mixture of paper and board types. The first step is to separate this mixture to a board fraction and a paper fraction in an automatic sorting line.

”The closed loop is guaranteed by using the integral paper inflow at the Langerbrugge Mill as raw material for both paper machines and by maximising the value of the board fraction within the packaging industry,” says De Hollander.

Paper pulp from the de-inking process

Sorted paper is mixed with water, creating so-called papier-mâché, which is literally washed to remove printing ink from the fibres. The end product of this de-inking process is white, recycled paper pulp. It is important that paper manufacturers take recyclability into account already in paper production. Therefore Stora Enso is continuously developing, for example, the de-inkability of its products.

During the paper production process, the pulp is turned into new, recycled paper that is rolled on a huge jumbo reel. These jumbo reels are then cut into smaller, customer-sized reels, which are wrapped, labelled and stored in a paper warehouse, ready for transportation to the customer.

On an annual basis, Langerbrugge Mill produces 400 000 tonnes of recycled newsprint and 155 000 tonnes of uncoated recycled magazine paper.

Similar articles