Close up virgin and recycled fibers

Office paper from virgin or recycled fibers?

Which is the most responsible choice? Office paper made from recycled fiber or from virgin fiber? Virgin fiber office paper does not contain any recycled material, it is paper manufactured from new wood pulp, while recycled fiber office paper contains recycled material. When you care a great deal about the environment, picking a recycled office paper over one made from virgin fiber, might seem like the obvious choice – ”It must be more sustainable!”. But, when you get the chance to take a closer look, you’ll realize that it’s not a black-or-white kind of question.

Every cycle has a beginning

For starters, there can be no recycled paper if there’s no virgin fiber paper to begin with. Fiber can be recycled several times. For each time you are recycling fiber there will be a loss of fibers. When you have recycled for about 20 times there is not much left to recycle, the fibers have become too short to be reduced and then they are burned for bioenergy.

 

Heavier and more absorbent

Virgin fiber is ideal for the demanding office printing – long runs, graphic and picture rich work. Recycled fiber is shorter in length than long virgin fiber and is more susceptible to breakage and curl in office paper applications. More fibers are needed to achieve the same strength properties as office paper from virgin fiber. This increases the weight of the paper which also increases the environmental impact of transport. Virgin fiber is also less absorbent than recycled fiber. Therefore, images on recycled office paper are less sharp and will require more ink in office paper applications.

 

Stronger, whiter and more durable

Since Multicopy is the market leading brand of sustainable premium office paper made from wood, we stress the superiority of virgin fiber when it comes to printing results and performance in our market segment.

It’s important to always consider fitness for purpose when selecting which fiber to use. At Stora Enso we use recycled fiber whenever it makes sense environmentally. Sorting and cleaning recycled paper to reach office paper type levels of whiteness can have a high environmental impact. Virgin fiber is suitable for applications that require higher strength, higher whiteness, great durability and low dusting.

 

Sustainable coexistence

Recycling paper is not the only way to ensure renewability and the final product’s different qualities and benefits leave room for the two to coexist as responsible options. Replacing the “or” in recycled or virgin with an ”and”, so to speak. You can ensure that your virgin fiber paper is sustainable if it is certified FSC or PEFC. This certifies that the wood for the production of this paper is sourced from sustainable managed forests. It’s equally important to ensure that both types are produced in the most sustainable way possible. Virgin and recycled fibers are part of a complex system, therefore it’s very difficult to compare the environmental attributes of recycled and virgin fibers. Existing knowledge on LCA* of recycled paper does not allow for general conclusions to be made regarding the environmental superiority of using recycled or virgin fiber for paper production. In the end, the overall benefits of using either recycled or virgin fibers depend very much on product end use, product safety, quality issues and production conditions.
* LCA Life Cycle Analysis/Assessment
Conclusions virgin and recycled fibers

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