For those who were curious, here’s a quick step-by-step description of how recycled paper is made!
1. Recycled paper is collected from homes, businesses, etc. and brought to recycling facilities where it is sorted and delivered to paper mills.
2. At the paper mill, the scraps are placed in large vats of water and stirred with large beaters. These beaters separate the paper fibers, which are then forced through a screen to remove large contaminants from the pulp. The mushy pulp is then put in a spinning centrifuge that separates dense areas and other contaminants from the usable pulp.
3. The pulp then goes through the “deinking” process, in which the fibers are washed with a detergent-like solution and injected with air bubbles that bring the ink particles to the surface. The foamy ink layer is scraped off the top, leaving the clean pulp behind. If whiter paper is desired, the pulp is bleached at this point.
4. For paper that is not 100% post-consumer waste, virgin (new) wood fibers are added at this stage. Mixing virgin fibers with recycled fibers ensures a stronger bond, and therefore stronger paper.
5. The pulp is mixed with water and chemicals and spread over a fast-moving screen. A series of rollers force additional water from the pulp, leaving a smooth sheet behind. If desired, a coating (such as glossy or dull) is added at this point. The finished sheets are then wound on large rolls to dry further.