Paper and Cardboard Recycling
Paper & cardboard recycling in the UK is a major success story
Recycling is an intrinsic part of the paper loop. Around 80% of UK-made paper utilises recovered paper which is by far the biggest source of recyclate from domestic waste streams.
The sale of this paper results in millions of pounds being paid to local authorities – income used to support the cost of collections. A strong domestic recycling base is needed to reprocess this constant stream of material. However, as recycling rates have increased, and the number of UK mills has fallen, the amount of recyclate exported has increased, meaning that more than half of the paper collected for recycling in the UK is now reprocessed overseas – both exposing collections to the vagaries of international markets and being a missed opportunity to add value and jobs here in the UK.
Recovered paper (used paper) is the most important raw material for the UK paper and board industry, representing over 70% of the fibre used to manufacture paper and board in the UK in 2017. This equates to 3.1 million tonnes of paper and cardboard products being collected.
Once used paper and cardboard is collected, graded, and any contaminants removed, it becomes ‘recovered paper’, the UK’s ‘Urban Forest’.
The paper industry is the UK’s most successful recycler. Paper recycling is crucial in the UK due to the lack of forests (only 12% of the land base is forested).
Excess recovered paper collected from the UK waste stream that is not used by the UK papermaking industry is exported for recycling. In 2017, for example, the UK exported 4.7 million tonnes of recovered paper and cardboard.
There are limits on recovery, however: paper and cardboard is lost when used for permanent records eg, books, wallpaper etc, destroyed in use or contaminated. Paper also cannot be recycled indefinitely – the fibres would become too weak, so virgin fibres need to be introduced into the papermaking process.
Recycle Now Campaign
CPI is pleased to support WRAP’s Recycle Now Campaign.Learn More
Simple Rules for Recycling
Almost any used papers can be recycled, including newspapers, cardboard, packaging, stationery, ‘direct mail’, magazines, catalogues, greeting cards and wrapping paper. It is important that these papers are kept separate from other household waste as papers contaminated with food waste or broken glass, for example, cannot easily be recycled.
Recycling used paper and cardboard also has carbon benefits in comparison to landfilling or incinerating the material with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Follow the links below for fact sheets and further information about recycling:
CPI Statement on BBC Watchdog Programme and Pizza Boxes
On the evening of Tuesday 2nd May 2018, the BBC Watchdog consumer programme screened a short feature on the recyclability of pizza boxes. The feature is close to the end of the programme, which can be viewed on BBC iplayer. It was filmed some weeks ago and the programme makers were in contact with CPI and were advised that the industry position was under review and likely to change. Since then, and as a result of an on-going review by the CEPI Raw Materials committee and independent of the programme, we are delighted to announce a revision to guidelines being given to the public and local authorities on the recyclability of food stained and marked packaging.
Industry guidance is as now follows:
“Pizza boxes that are stained or marked should be considered recyclable and can now be collected in the usual paper and board stream. Stains or marks from contact with food do not prohibit paper and board from being recycled. Contamination with food stuffs is not acceptable. Food stuffs means visible quantities of pieces of food. Packaging containing solid food should be cleaned so there is no solid food contamination before being recycled. If cleaning is impossible, it should be discarded with the residual waste.
Society is changing and the paper packaging industry recognises the need to adapt to evolving social habits and the requirements of its customers. This change is an acknowledgement of the need to align industry’s needs with those of its stakeholders and society at large. CPI continues to work with the industry to agree consistent public messages about recyclability that are simple, realistic and realisable within UK recovery and recycling systems.”
Environmental issues related to paper are a source of numerous misconceptions. Innovation has been at the heart of papermaking for nearly two thousand years and it would be hard to imagine what life would be like without paper.
Timber used for papermaking comes from well managed forests where more trees are planted than harvested to ensure sustainable growth.
Papermakers usually use only the parts of the tree that other commercial industries don’t want – such as saw mill waste and forest thinnings.
Some of the pulp properties depend upon the process used to separate the fibres from the timber. The main processes are called mechanical and chemical.