Paper & Recycling

Quick links
→ Why we need forests
→ What is the effect of our paper usage?
→ How does recycling make a difference?
→ What are pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled papers?
→ What is the best paper for the environment?
→ What is FSC paper?
→ What is Totally Chlorine Free (TCF)?
→ Which brand of copy paper should I buy?
Australian vs imported papers
→ Recycled specialty papers

Why we need forests

It isn’t a secret how important the worlds forests are. Aside from maintaining biodiversity of countless plants and animal species, forests protect land and water resources. They also act as massive storage banks of carbon, breathing in huge amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide from human activites and exhaling oxgyen back into the atmosphere. Forests are living ecosystems that sustain our lives.

What is the effect of our paper usage?

Our demand for paper is causing destruction of the worlds forests. From latest detailed UN FAO’s statistics of rates of global deforestation, primary forest area is being reduced by 60,000 square kilometers per year. According to the Rainforest Action Network, this equates to approximately 3 billion to 6 billion trees per year – an area approximately the size of Ireland!

How does recycling make a difference?

Recycling paper is the processes of using waste paper to make into new paper, and a way of providing for the demand for paper without cutting down trees. According to the Bureau of International Recycling, over 400 million tonnes (400,000,000,000 kg), of paper and cardboard are produced every year, with over half coming from recovered sources.

Not only does recycling post-consumer waste mean less trees are cut down, but it reduces the amount of paper dumped in landfills or incinerated; less energy is involved in the process when compared to making paper from virgin fibre; fewer greenhouse gases are produced and less water and air pollution are created as well.

What are pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled papers?

Pre-consumer recycled – any material that has not been used by consumers eg. wastage from industry and business (such as offcuts from printing), as well as goods that have never reached the consumer like unsold newspapers and magazines. Pre-consumer material can still contain virgin fibre from native forests.
Post-consumer recycled –  any waste that has already been used by consumers such as used paper, magazines and toilet rolls you put in your recycling bin at home.

What is the best paper for the environment?

The best choice is paper made from a high proportion of post-consumer recycled material. This is any waste that has already been used by consumers such as used paper, magazines and toilet rolls you put in your recycling bin at home. Over a third of recovered paper is derived from households, so it goes to show that we each have power in directly impacting our environment through our everyday choices.

What is FSC paper?

Forest Stewarship Council (FSC) paper comes from fibre from sustainably managed forests. These plantations are composed of rows of identical plant species. Although sourcing material from these areas can be carried out in a responsible way, so is a step in the right direction, this is not the ideal source for paper. Trees are still cut down so the paper produced still contains virgin material, and native old growth forest is sometimes cleared to make way for these plantations.

Other negatives include the effect of toxic chemicals used to maintain these ‘monoculture plantations’, and the impact on the ecosystem of an entire area composed of identical plant species. Aside from these very major concerns, there can also be issues where FSC labeling is applied to products that are not necessarily derived from sustainable sources. As with any eco-label, don’t take it at face value. Do some searching and find out a bit more about the company behind the label to determine it’s environmental credibility.


What is Totally Chlorine Free (TCF)?

Bleaching products are used in paper-making to brighten the final product and improve life-span. These agents have environmental impacts, in particular elemental chlorine which has been found to produce harmful toxic effects in humans, animals and the environment. For this reason it’s preferable to choose a paper that has no elemental chlorine used in its manufacturing process (either TCF or PCF), and most office papers nowdays are produced without its use.

3 categories exist:
Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) – virgin pulp (not recycled), bleached with no chlorine compounds.
Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) – usually referes to chlorine dioxide. Pulp is bleached without elemental chlorine gas, but the use of chlorine compounds is still used. Toxic by-products are reduced but not eliminated.
Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) – recycled fibres are not re-bleached with chlorine compounds.

Which brand of copy paper should I buy?

The best copy paper is made from 100% post-consumer recycled content:

100% Post-consumer, No bleaching (Brown coloured paper)
– Manufactured in Australia from Australian recycled fibre
J. Burrows 100% Recycled Carbon Neutral
100% Post-consumer, manufactured carbon neutral
– Made in Germany
100% Post-consumer, PCF, manufactured carbon neutral
Canon Oce Recycled Zero
100% Post-consumer, manufactured carbon neutral
OfficeMax 100% Recycled
100% Post-consumer, PCF, manufactured carbon neutral
– Manufactured in Germany from recycled fibre from Germany
Fuji Xerox Green Wrap Pure 100 Carbon Neutral
100% Post-consumer, PCF

For more details on these papers and to download the Ethical Paper Guide visit the Ethical Paper website.
Also, refuse to buy Reflex brand paper:
 → Video: Refuse to buy Reflex Paper
This is well worth taking the time to have a look at.  Please pass on to your friends and family. The manufacturer of Brands: Reflex, Australian 10%, Australian 80%, Tudor, Optix, and Olympic continue to buy timber from highly controversial logging of Victoria’s native forests. This video includes footage from action early in 2010.

Australian vs imported recycled papers

Unfortunately, the choices of recycled papers within Australia are pretty slim. The main paper-manufacturer is Australian Paper (owned by Nippon Paper and which produces the Reflex and Tudor brands among others), and who continues logging of Victoria’s native old-growth forests to produce photocopy paper. We do not recommend buying any of their products and urge people to sign the Ethical Paper Pledge. One small Australia company making a difference is Ecocern who produce 100% post-consumer recycled paper products using waste sourced exclusively from within Australia.

In contrast, the overseas recycled paper market has a lot to offer. European paper-makers have been doing what they do for a long time. Their eco-friendly technologies and processes are well established and transparent, and they produce papers of superior quality.

Recycled specialty papers

Visit Blackrainbow for a list of uncoated standard recycled papers for photocopying and printing, including specialty, art and alternative non-tree papers.

GreenFacts Scientific Board (
Rainforest Action Network (
Bureau of International Recycling (
Environmental Paper Network (
Worldwatch Institute (
NSW Govt (
Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Victoria:($File/Choosing+paper+characteristics.pdf)

(As far as I am aware these details are correct at time of publishing. However, I can take no personal responsibility for any information I have obtained from outside sources which may be incorrect. I will update/make corrections as need be, so feel free to notify me if you know of anything that is not accurate!)