Sorting paper inequality in recycling quality quest

When it comes to recycling, not all paper is the same. There are significant differences in paper quality, from the nature of the fibres to any coatings on the surface.

That is why some paper is collected in one box at the kerbside, while other sorts of paper should go in the second box with your card. And a third sort of paper is not wanted at all and can only go in your rubbish bin or black sacks – for details, see below.

Into your kerbside recycling box one, which is usually green, should go newspapers, magazines, leaflets, directories, white envelopes and other white paper.

Among the sorts of paper that should be recycled with your cardboard in kerbside recycling box two, which is usually black, are brown envelopes, gift wrapping (though not the plastic or metallic versions) and greeting cards.

This because the paper mills that recycle your paper from the kerbside collection boxes or from recycling sites, known as post-consumer waste, grade the quality of the materials they will accept to be the right sort of feedstock to manufacture their end product.

Any contaminants in either of your recycling boxes, such as food waste, broken glass or plastic films, can cause problems at the paper mill in their recycling operations, lowering the value of the materials and increasing the risk that they may be rejected as sub-standard, which will see that load sent to costly and wasteful landfill.

Unlike the contamination and extra costs of all-in-one-bin mixed recycling, Somerset’s twice-sorted – by both the resident and the collection crew – kerbside collection system ensures a high quality stream of materials, including paper, securing good markets with no loads rejected.

When recycling your paper, there is no need to remove the windows from envelopes – white or brown – or the staples from publications, and you can add in all that junk mail but please do not include lots of sticky tape.

You can use the kerbside collection service to recycle shredded paper.  To cut down on litter, it is best to add it to your paper for recycling in paper bags or old envelopes. (Alternatively, shredded paper is great resource if you make compost at home).

And all recycling sites take paper (and card, including those brown envelopes, gift wrapping and greeting cards).

At a paper recycling mill, it is mixed with water and chemicals to break it down, with glues and other items removed by using chemicals and screens. After de-inking and any bleaching, it can then be made into new paper and sold.

Unlike some materials, paper fibres cannot be recycled indefinitely as they break down during the recycling process, so new fibres from harvested trees are often added to improve paper quality.

To see some of the processes in paper recycling, check out this video made by UPM Shotton, the company that now recycles most of Somerset’s paper (NB: figures are now out of date):

And what sort of paper is not wanted for recycling? Due to their glues, coatings and finishes, unwanted or used wallpaper or lining paper should be put into your rubbish bin or taken to any recycling site for disposal.

To ensure transparency, SWP was the first waste authority to publish an annual end use register (EUR), which records how much of what materials are recycled and by which companies, and includes information on typical products or packaging made from the materials.

Due to falling newspaper readership and greater use of electronic communications, the amount of paper recycled has been falling fast in Somerset.

The first Somerset EUR in 2007-08 shows more than 19,000 tonnes of paper collected from the kerbside for recycling, with perhaps another 1,000 or more tonnes from recycling sites and other sources.

The most recent EUR, for 2014-15, shows around 12,000 tonnes of paper from kerbside collections, along with a few hundred tonnes from recycling sites and other sources.

PS: Did you know that it takes just seven days for this newspaper to be recycled and come back as a newspaper? Paper recycling is certainly worth it. Check here for more details on all your kerbside recycling.