Sunday, March 16, 2008

What is "recycled paper" exactly?

I wrote about Japanese recycled paper scandal. Ever since, I've been thinking what could be the most feasible recycled paper product considering the whole system. Possible elements;
* quality of post-consumer materials (feedstock): homogeneous versus heterogeneous, paint on the paper, new versus already recycled....
* mixture ratio of virgin material versus post-consumer material
* employed process and its input (energy, chemicals, water....)
* quality of the final product (recycled paper)

LCA (life cycle assessment), in principle, is a tool to compare environmental impacts of two or more different methods that achieve the same goal. For example, you can compare cloths diaper and disposable diaper to assess which has less environmental impact. What I want to know here, is the comparison of arrays of "recycled paper products" that employ different system.

In this picture it is very hard to tell the difference, but the left hand side is the recycled paper used at the university in the Netherlands. Right hand side is the recycled paper used here in US. Netherlands version is with lower quality. It's not pure white, thin, and weak. After some years, the color already changed a bit. But I assume that it is with less environmental/economic impact compared to the right hand side paper, if you look at the whole system. Am I right?

The specs for "recycled paper" is different from place to place. I would like to find which one is the best.....if you know anything about recycled paper, please help me.

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