The Value Of Using Secondary Fiber

By Nelda Powers

Secondary fiber is material that has been manufactured before and is re-used to produce new products. The use of these fibers has been stimulated by the growing perception that waste of raw material and energy must be avoided. Growing consumer demand has led to great improvements in the quality and variety of products being produced.

The fibers for recycling come from different sources. For example, scrap and paper trimmings from the manufacture of paper is recycled internally inside paper mills. Post-consumer waste consisting of old corrugated containers, magazines, old newspapers, office paper and old telephone directories is collected, reduced to pulp and re-used for new products.

Substituting virgin pulp with recycled fibers saves on trees being cut down to supply the wood needed. Every ton which is recycled saves as many as seventeen trees. The process of pulping virgin fibers requires a large amount of energy. Using recycled fiber reduces the amount of energy and water required. It also saves on waste disposal, thus reducing landfill volume.

The process of recycling fibers involves the breaking down of the used paper with chemicals and water. Chopping it up and heating it breaks it down further. It becomes a pulp and is strained through screens to remove any glue or plastic. It has to go through a process of cleaning, de-inking and bleaching before it can be made into new products.

The main objectives are to remove ink and any other contaminants while at the same time keeping the quality of the fibers intact. There are some problems associated with the recycling of fibers. The de-inking is one of these problems. Another is that recycled fibers have a higher drainage resistance making machines work slower. Tacky pliable materials like latex, adhesive and rubber called stickies are another problem. However, these problems are being addressed successfully. The use of enzymes, naturally occurring compounds, has showed great potential in solving these issues.

The many improvements in technology mean that the products produced are now of a high quality. They meet the same technical specifications as products made from primary fibers. Recycled products are also available at prices competitive with those of products made from virgin fibers. This is good news for those who want to use recycled products but could not afford to pay more for them.

Chlorine has been used for many years in the paper making industry to bleach paper. However, it is being used less and less as information comes to light on the effects of dioxin, a carcinogen, which is a by product of the chlorine bleaching process. Pressure has been placed on paper mills to decrease chlorine usage and many mills are using other bleaching methods. Chlorine-free bleaching of recycled fibers is increasingly prevalent throughout the world.

Just about every paper company today produces some products with recycled content as the demand continues to rise. At present about 40 percent of the total paper production in the world is based on secondary fiber. Users of recycled products no longer have to compromise on quality. A wide variety of products are available with the required smoothness and brightness and are now available at competitive prices.

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