Recycled papers and post-consumer paper

Recycled papers and post-consumer paper

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In the bleak landscape of a world struggling with the damage caused by a humanity disrespectful to the planet that hosts it, a small positive signal is there and has the appearance of a sheet of paper.

Paper is the material towards which it manifests a propensity to recycle more active and ancient than other materials; looking only at our country an encouraging signal provides us Comieco (National Consortium recovery and recycling of Cellulosic based packaging) which indicates that, from 2000 to 2010, Italy reached almost 80% of paper collection, tripling the percentage compared to the past decade, when the majority of paper on the market was still the white one.

It is clear that paper recycling, in addition to being very easy to implement in everyday life, can bring immediate benefits to the environment: just think of energy saving, reduced water consumption, the pollution deficit of rivers and lakes, in addition to safeguarding the forest heritage.

A good part of the paper we are in contact with today, therefore, be it office or packaging material, is the result of a process of recycling waste paper, a process that has been perfected over the years to be the least polluting possible.

White paper, recycled paper, ecological paper, pre-consumer, post-consumer: but how many types of paper are there? To become a conscious consumer and user you really need to try to put order between all these terms.

White paper is, among all, the type of paper that is less ecological at the moment in circulation but, fortunately, it is also the least diffused: it is a support that uses as raw material the bleached cellulose fiber, often through chemical processes with or without chlorine, the production of which involves a huge expenditure of water and energy. To be honest, today there are less impactful bleaching processes that exploit oxygen-based compounds, but this does not mean that white paper can be defined as virtuous from an environmental point of view.

Recycled paper, on the other hand, is obtained by processing waste paper. It is potentially one of the most eco-friendly types of media, although some distinctions should be made between pre-consumer recycled paper, post-consumer recycled paper and eco-friendly paper.

With the term pre-consumer it is customary to indicate the paper made from unprinted sheets or paper waste, thus optimizing the resources already in possession not yet placed on the market.

The term post-consumer indicates instead the paper already placed on the market, used by the final consumer who, providing a proper disposal, allows a profitable reuse, giving the material a second life.

Finally, the ecological paper indicates a type of support consisting entirely of recycled fibres, is not subject to deinking or bleaching operations and should therefore not be confused with simple recycled paper, which may contain up to 40% virgin fibre and is often subject to bleaching processes that have an environmental impact.

One tool that makes the choice of paper really safe is the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification that guarantees at every level a proper forest management, a supply chain managed responsibly, traceability of derived products and is the most accredited forest certification system in the world. Only by choosing FSC certified products is it safe to have a product in your hands that is the result of a controlled and environmentally friendly supply chain, aimed at protecting natural communities, protecting workers’ rights and protecting indigenous peoples.

False myths have circulated around recycled paper for many years that indicated it as a support of inferior quality compared to white paper, less resistant, less performing and inficiante during printing. Today, fortunately, most of these preconceptions have fallen, also thanks to the new types of paper launched on the market by the big names of the Italian paper industry, real universal reference points.

Papers created in a perspective of up-cycling and sustainability from the remains of leather, coffee, dried fruit, algae, citrus and fruit have now become part not only of the daily life of some companies, but they are particularly appreciated in niche segments of the market that perceive them, with good reason, as the result of an avant-garde research in terms of supports, able to give an extra quid to many projects.

The EU’s objective this year is to be able to recycle a total of 74% of paper, a goal that can only be achieved if effective management of separate collection is guaranteed, reducing exports of recycling paper outside the European Union, but also increasing the sensitivity of both producers and consumers.

Once again, the future of our planet is in the hands of each of us, proving that we are drops of the same ocean and that all our actions, even the smallest, can really make a difference by transporting us and the new generations into a truly green future.

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