Are there limits to the recycling of paper?

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A fibre can be recycled several times, yet not indefinitely, depending on the paper grade. Therefore, there is a continuous need to feed the inflow of recovered fibre with paper products made of virgin pulp. Paper recycling needs to continuously incorporate a certain amount of fresh fibres for three main reasons:

  • Strength:
    • Cellulose fibre deteriorates each time it is recycled.
    • Depending upon the type of paper being made, it can be reused several times.
  • Quality:
    • While most, if not all, paper and board types could be made of 100% paper for recycling, some products need top quality paper for recycling, (like cuttings and shavings from printers), which is not widely available.
    • Some paper and board type production makes little or no use of paper for recycling. This can be partly due to the quality requirements of the end-product, such as high-grade artwork, or the technical characteristics needed for many special purpose types, such as security paper, which prevents fraudulent use of documents.
  • Availability:
    • Around 19% of the paper we use is not possible to collect or recycle.
    • Some paper products are not sent for recycling – for example, books, documents and photographs kept at home or in archives and libraries.
    • In other cases, paper products deteriorated or are destroyed when used – such as sanitary paper or cigarette paper.

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