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Recycling

When old becomes new again

Recycled paper comes in all shapes and forms, but until we get there, a lot of things have to happen.
Progress has brought us many things we take for granted nowadays. Electricity or running water, for example. Another, especially in the course of the last fifty years, is the recycling of paper. Today, Europe leads with a 72% recycling rate for paper, and for most of us it goes without saying that waste paper finds its way into the respective recycling boxes.
 
But what exactly happens with the waste paper we put into those boxes? How is this mix of copy paper, packaging material or cardboard turned into recycled products like Mondi's NAUTILUS® paper?
 
As expected, it all starts with trucks picking up the recycling boxes containing the post-consumer wastepaper. Then, depending on whether there's a contract with a recycling firm or not, the waste paper is taken to either a communal sorting site or to a privately owned one. Many cities or communities, often because they lack the necessary infrastructure, but also because it makes sense economically, sell contracts for recycled paper, which are then fulfilled by the recycling companies.
 
Regardless of whether it's a communal or a private sorting site, the next step is the same everywhere: the waste paper is sorted into its different grades. These grades, standardised by the European Committee for Standardisation, are split into five different groups, from ordinary to special grades. NAUTILUS, by the way, is made of 100% post-consumer waste, meaning it is not trimmings or other waste from paper production, but rather paper that was used by end-consumers.
 
It's important to note that when sending wastepaper to be recycled, it should be free of any kinds of non-paper components. Metal, plastic, glass, textiles, sand or synthetic materials all make the sorting of wastepaper more difficult, sometimes even hazardous and generally make the whole recycling process more costly.
 
While most of the sorting process nowadays is automatic, the initial sorting is largely manual. This makes sure that most of the non-paper components are filtered out, before the finer sorting starts.

Among the above mentioned grades, only a small number is usable to produce the kind of pulp we need for NAUTILUS®.
 
Which means that in order to achieve the whiteness and quality we require for NAUTILUS®, we have to make sure to only use waste paper that is of the same high quality. As mentioned above, recycled papers are classified in five different groups, and most of the papers we would need for NAUTILUS® pulp would come from Group 3, the high grades. These are usually white and woodfree. The more whiteness we get from the paper then turned into recycled pulp, the whiter our recycled paper will be. Keeping it woodfree ensures it will keep it whiteness.
 
Once the wastepaper suitable for the production of NAUTILUS is collected, it needs to be cleaned up, a process that is known as de-inking.
 
This process includes the initial pulping of the paper, turning it into what is referred to as a slurry. Afterwards, this slurry goes through a series of filtering and cleaning stages. One of those stages is called flotation de-inking, because by adding a collector agent and then blowing air into the pulp-filled drum, the colour- or ink-particles float to the surface, while the pulp drops to the bottom. This step is repeated until the bubbles floating to the surface are clear, with all the ink finally removed from the slurry. What needs to be noted here is, that during the whole process, no chlorine to bleach the pulp is used. It’s what’s commonly referred to as PCF, process chlorine free.
 
Finally, it is run through a dispersion system, ridding it of remaining dirt spots.
 
What remains now is so-called DIP, short for de-inked pulp.
 
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By the way, and you were probably wondering that already, it takes roughly 1.4 tonnes of waste paper to get 1 tonne of recycled paper.
Here, the process to produce paper becomes identical to the one used to create paper made from fresh-fibre: in our plant in Lower Austria, the pulp is fed into the paper machine, water is added in copious amounts and it is stretched, pressed and dried.
 
In the end, those containers filled with discarded paper materials have been turned into fresh reams of NAUTILUS recycled paper, completing one part of the Cycle of Sustainability. But that's another story (literally, you can read it here).
 
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Recycled papers by Mondi

See Mondi's full portfolio of NAUTILUS® recycled papers for professional print and office use.
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