Sources and origins

Paper is made from new fibres or recycled material. Wood pulp is obtained by cutting down trees and breaking down the wood. The bark and chippings are then removed and ground down or cooked with chemicals to extract the cellulose fibres. Softwood trees are traditionally used to create wood pulp as the fibres are longer, making stronger paper; some manufacturers plant new trees for each one they chop down.

The pulp is filtered, squeezed, bleached and pounded before other materials, such as chalk or chemicals, are added to change the opacity and absorbency of the paper. The excess water and chemicals are drained out of the pulp by pushing it through sets of rollers, called ‘calenders’, before being shaken and blown to dry out the fibres. This process is repeated until the pulp is fully dried, and then it is pressed to create a smooth finish.

  • mechanical pulp - by mechanically grinding the wood chips down into paper pulp, used for lower grade papers such as newspapers
  • chemical pulp - uses chemicals to reduce the wood chips down and dissolve into cellulose fibres to make the paper pulp, used for higher quality paper

Additional treatments, or ‘coatings’, can be added to give the paper different aesthetics.

Recycling paper

Many different types of papers and boards can be recycled, including newspapers, shredded paper, cardboard boxes, letters and envelopes, egg boxes, paper bags and magazines.

Benefits of recycling paperDrawbacks of recycling paper
Conserves natural resourcesNot always cost-effective
Saves landfill spaceHigh upfront costs
Reduces greenhouse gas emissionsThere are not always recycling facilities available
Saves energyRecycling sites are commonly unsafe with potentially hazardous waste

Life cycle analysis (LCA) of paper

The life cycle of paper, starting from new fibres and moving through the production of pulp and paper, the manufcature and use of a final product and its end of life, either binned or recycled.The life cycle of paper, starting from new fibres and moving through the production of pulp and paper, the manufacture and use of a final product and its end of life - either binned or recycled