The Fiber Recycling Process
Simply put, fiber recycling is a specialized process in which office wastepaper is used
to produce clean, recycled pulp that can be used to make recycled content paper and
paperboards. At a Recycling Plant, located in Franklin, VA, more than 400
tons of mixed office waste, the equivalent of 80 million sheets of 8.5" x 11"
paper, can be processed daily. From that, 300 tons of 100% post-consumer pulp is made for
producing recycled content business and printing papers and bleached paperboards... all of
which perform like non-recycled products.
Wastepaper from office, school and business recycling programs is collected by outside
waste-management companies that sort the waste and then sell it in bales to
About 22,000 pounds of wastepaper goes into every batch of pulp this mill makes. The
wastepaper is mixed with water and chemicals, and reduced to pulp slurry in a giant
blender called a pulper.
Following pulping, the pulp mix is diluted with water and passes through a system of
centrifugal cleaning equipment and screens. This is done to remove large contaminants like
wood, plastic, rocks, glass and paper clips, along with small contaminants like string,
glue and other sticky materials.
The pulp is pressed to remove water and dissolved inks, and is then fed into a kneading
machine. During kneading, the pulp fibers are rubbed against each other, further loosening
the inks, while kneading chemicals are added to begin the brightening process. Brightening
the pulp counters any yellowing affect sometimes seen in paper containing wood fibers like
those used for newspaper. The fibers soak in chemicals for about three hours in a storage
chest. The pulp that went into the brightening process gray and dirty in appearance comes
out much whiter and cleaner.
The fibers are then sent through a fine screening process that removes any remaining
glue particles and small contaminants.
The pulp goes through an ink removal process. Here the pulp is mixed with chemicals,
called surfactants, that suds up like washing machine soap. Ink particles, dirt, glues and
other very small contaminants adhere to the suds and float to the surface where they are
skimmed away leaving the pulp even cleaner.
The pulp is then washed, pressed, kneaded and placed in the decolorization chest. A
chemical is added to remove any colors that might tint the pulp.
The pulp is then washed again to remove any remaining ink particles, fillers or other
The finished recycled pulp is then either sent on a mile-long conveyor to the mill for
papermaking or it is formed into sheets of pulp, called "wet lap," for shipment