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What is paper made from?


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Paper made from virgin wood fibre

This means a paper product has been made from fresh wood fibre from a farmed tree, the original raw material used for the manufacture of all paper products. In South Africa, manufacturers only use wood fibre sourced from sustainably managed and certified timber plantations. This means that the production of paper products has not led to deforestation. Look for certification symbols such as FSC® or PEFC®.


Paper recycling and saving trees

The trees used in papermaking are specially farmed for productive purposes – in other words, they are planted and grown to be harvested. This means that paper recycling does not “save trees”. While recycled fibre is an alternative fibre for paper manufacturers, it does not seek to replace virgin fibre or conserve trees used for papermaking.

But we still need everyone to recycle their waste paper – at home, at school and at work.

Recycling of waste paper and packaging enables certain environmental benefits such diversion from landfill, ensuring the reuse of a material, and keeping the carbon (absorbed by the trees) locked up for longer. And it contributes to the economy through the making of products for local use and export, and by sustaining employment.

Depending on the purpose of new material such as paper packaging, recycled fibres can be used in combination with or to replace virgin fibres. However, recycled fibres and virgin fibres are not two separate streams but are interconnected and interdependent. With every paper-making (re)cycle, the fibres gradually deteriorate until they may be rejected during preparatory pulp-cleaning process.

According to Kreplin, Schabel and Putz (December 2019), thanks to low losses during recycling, fibres from corrugated boxes can be recycled 25 times without experiencing signs of a “recycling collapse”. Depending on the specific fibre-based product/fibre type and the corresponding recycling processes and losses during recycling, the average number of cycles can be lower. Introducing virgin fibres helps to maintain pulp volume, quality and mechanical properties. (Source: Circularity by Design for Fibre-Based Packaging, 4evergreen)