The paper recycling process

Do you know what happens when you recycle? At DSS, we recycle an average of 190 tons of paper every month. Let’s take a look at what happens to that paper as it goes through the recycling process. But, before we dive into the recycling process, we need to start by explaining why we should all recycle paper.

Why Recycle?

First, paper is one of the easiest and most profitable materials to recycle. Second, while nearly all paper is made from trees grown in sustainable forests, producing recycled paper uses 28% to 70% less power and water than that would be used in new paper production. The Environment ProtectIt is estimated that every ton of paper recycled saves 7,000 gallons of water and 463 gallons of oil. Now that we know the why, let’s explore how paper recycling works.

The Paper Recycling Process

Initial Processing

The first step is shredding. At DSS, we shred the paper then bale it and send it be truck to a paper mill. We use different mills, but the recycling process is basically the same everywhere. The second step is pulping. At the mill, the paper is mixed with chemicals and water that separate the fibers, resulting in a slurry of water and pulp.


Next, the slurry a passes through a series of screens designed to remove larger contaminants such as plastic films, glues, and staples. The slurry then moves onto centrifugal cleaning where the pulp goes through a centrifuge-like process in which it is spun rapidly eventually forming a cone or cylinder. This processes causes lighter particles, such as plastics, to rise the top, and heavier materials, such as metals, to fall to the bottom so that they can be removed.

Now it is time for de-inking. The pulp is placed in a flotation device with chemicals and air bubbles which agitate the fibers causing dues and inks to release. Hydrogen peroxide is sometimes used to further bleach the pulp to get it as white as possible.

Next the pulp goes through either dispersion or kneading. With both of these methods a strong shearing force is applied to the pulp to breakdown and release any remaining contaminant particles. These released contaminants are then removed by passing water once again passed through the fibers in a process called nest washing.

Final Processing

Now that the pulp has been thoroughly cleaned, it must by dried and pressed. Here the pulp is added to a conveyor belt where excess water is pressed out by heated rollers that for the pulp into long sheets of paper. Once the sheets have been formed, the paper is trimmed, rolled, and sent to manufacturers. The recycled paper fibers will find new life in products such as paper towels, wrapping paper, newspapers, and more.

So, there you have is the paper recycling process from beginning to end. However, there is one last thing you should know about paper.

Paper as a Commodity

Recycled paper is a commodity. And, like any commodity, its value fluctuates based on supply and demand. On occasion, low demand on the global market drives down the price for paper. This means a loss for businesses that trade in this commodity, such as shred companies. As a result, many companies is shredding industry charge customers extra fees to cover these losses.

These fees can have clever names such as environment fee or paper processing fees. However, DSS will never charge our customers extra fees, or penalize our partners to compensate for the loss of paper revenue. Instead, we will continue to focus on providing the best service in our industry.

If you are interested in learning more about our recycling processes, check out our Environmental Impact page. We also recycle waste from IT assets and electronics, which you can research on our E-waste & Electronics Disposal page.

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