The Paper Recycling Process

The paper recycling process basically involves the generic recycling process of collecting the recyclables, sorting them by their types, processing them into raw materials and manufacturing new products using these recycled raw materials.

Nevertheless, there are some variations from the process of recycling other materials.

Three categories of paper can be used as feedstocks for making recycled paper – mill broke, pre-consumer waste, and post-consumer waste.

Mill broke refers to paper trimmings and other paper scrap from the manufacture of paper. Pre-consumer waste paper refers to paper that is discarded (eg. packaging) before the product of interest is ready for consumer use. Post-consumer waste paper refers to paper discarded after use (eg. waste paper, old newspaper).

Below are more facts about the paper recycling process after the waste paper is collected.


To start the paper recycling process, the waste paper needs to be sorted, such as by newsprint, computer paper, magazine paper etc, as different types of paper are treated differently during the paper recycling process to make different types of recycled paper products.

For example, finer paper with multi-colored ink would require additional processing.

Effort is taken to ensure that the waste paper is free of any pins, clips, staples etc.

Processing: Pulping

During this stage of the paper recycling process, the sorted paper is usually soaked in huge pulpers, which contain water and chemicals.

The pulper shreds the paper up into smaller pieces. The heating of the paper mixture also breaks the paper down more quickly into the paper fibers. The paper mixtures turns into a mushy mix, known as a pulp.

Processing: Pulp screening and cleaning

The third stage of the paper recycling process is known as screening and cleaning.

The pulp is forced through screens with holes of various shapes and sizes to remove small contaminants such as bits of plastic and globs of glue.

In addition, the pulp may also be spun around in large cone-shaped cylinders. Heavy contaminants (eg. staples) are thrown out of the cone via centripetal forces, while lighter contaminants collect in the center of the cone and are removed.

Processing: Deinking

The next stage in the paper recycling process involves deinking – removing the ink from the paper fibers of the waste paper. Sticky materials (referred to as “stickies”) like glue residue and adhesives are also removed at this stage.

Deinking is achieved by a combination of mechanical action (eg. shredding) as well as chemical means (eg. additional of chemicals). Small particles of ink are rinsed from the pulp with water, while larger particles and “stickies” are removed with air bubbles in a process known as flotation.

With flotation, the paper pulp is fed into a flotation cell, where air and soap-like chemicals called surfactants are injected into the pulp. The surfactants cause the ink and “stickies” to dislodge from the pulp and stick to the air bubbles as they float to the surface of the mixture. The inky air bubbles create froth which is then removed, leaving the clean pulp behind.

Processing: Refining, Color Stripping and Bleaching

During refining, the pulp is beaten to make the recycled fibers swell, as well as to separate the individual fibers to facilitate paper making.

If the recovered paper is colored (eg. color printed paper), color stripping chemicals are added to remove the dyes from the paper. From this processing, brown paper is obtained.

If white recycled paper is to be produced, the pulp would need to be bleached with hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide, or oxygen to make it whiter and brighter.

Processing: Papermaking

In the last stage of the recycling process, the cleaned up pulp is ready to be made into recycled paper.

The recycled fiber can be used alone, or blended with new wood fibers (ie. virgin fibers) to give it extra strength or smoothness.

The pulp is mixed with water and chemicals, such that the pulp is 99.5% water. This watery pulp mixture then enters the headbox of a paper making machine, and is sprayed in a continuous jet onto a huge wire mesh-like screen moving very quickly through the paper machine.

On the screen, water starts to drain from the pulp, and the recycled fibers begin to bond together to form a watery sheet. The sheet then moves rapidly through a series of felt-covered press rollers which squeeze out more water from the pulp.

In this way, recycled paper is created.

Who recycles paper

Check out the recycling collection centres that take in unwanted paper.

Paper recycling at home

What you have read above is the industrial process of how paper is recycled. There is a simpler version for those who interested to try out recycling paper at home. Check it out!

Other facts about recycling paper

Unlike other products, paper cannot be recycled forever.

After a certain point, the quality of recycled paper deteriorates and it cannot be recycled further. The waste paper would then have to be sent to the landfills or the incinerators. Therefore, while paper can be recycled, it is important to use paper carefully.

Read more statistics and facts on recycling paper.

Where To Send Unwanted Paper
For Recycling?

If you take in unwanted paper for recycling, I would love to share your service with my readers.

Anyone intending to get ride of their unwanted paper will definitely find your service information very useful.

Please share with us the following details:
- location of paper collection centre(s)
- type / condition of unwanted paper that would be rejected/accepted by collection centre(s)
- any fees incurred / reimbursement given for using the recycling service
- any additional service(s) provided (e.g. free transportation of unwanted paper to collection centre)
- contact(s) for queries

Note that regrettably, we are unable to provide links to external webpages.

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