What’s black and white and read over and over? Recycled newspaper.
You begin the recycling process when you set it apart from your household garbage and place it at curbside or in a bin at a drop-off depot. Or when you participate in a paper drive. Whichever method you select, the paper is picked up by recycling collector. At curbside, this might be your garbage hauler or a recycling service working with your garbage hauler. The collector combines your newspaper with paper from other households and sells them to a paper dealer who, because of the volume of material purchased, often operates out of a storage warehouse. The dealer then sells quantities of paper to a user. This is where the actual recycling–manufacturing one product into a new product–takes place.
Old newspaper is an essential material in the paper remanufacturing process. Because paper mills must be concerned about both quality (cleanliness, type of paper) and quantity of the supply, they usually issue purchasing contracts to dealers rather than buying small amounts of paper from the public. Some contracts might be for a month, while others are ongoing.
At the paper mill, de-inking facilities separate ink from the newspaper fibers through a chemical washing process. A slusher turns the old paper into pulp, and detergent dissolves and carries the ink away. Next, screens remove contaminants like bits of tape or dirt. The remaining pulp is bleached and mixed with additional pulp from wood chips to strengthen it. The watery mixture is poured onto a wire, a continuously moving belt screen which allows excess moisture to drain through. By the time the mixtures gets to the end of the belt, it’s solid enough to be lifted off and fed through steam-heated rollers which further dry and flatten it into a continuous sheet of paper. This paper machine produces finished newsprint at the rate of 3,000 feet per minute.
Finally the newsprint is trimmed, rolled, and sent to printing plants to be imprinted with tomorrow’s news. The Smurfit mills in Oregon City and Newberg are the major users of old newspaper in Oregon. Together they process close to 900 tons every day. This is equivalent to a stack of newspaper nine and one-half miles high, and nearly 2.5 times the amount of newsprint printed and sold in this state each day. Even though Oregonians recycle nearly twice as much newspaper (close to 70 percent) as do residents of any other state, the mills must depend on old newspaper shipped to them from other states as well as that from Oregon to maintain their inventory.
Not all old newspaper in Oregon is recycled back into newspaper. Western Pulp, located in Albany, uses old newsprint for manufacturing molded flower pots and other specialty items. Energy Guard in Clackamas produces blown-in cellulose insulation from old newsprint. Paper brokers also may sell old newspaper to overseas markets. In that case, the paper sometimes is reused (rather than remanufactured) as wrapping paper.
What is cardboard? If you answered a brown box, you’re only partly correct. There are two types of cardboard. The first is called boxboard. This a solid sheet used for products like shoe boxes and tablet backings. The gray color indicates that the boxboard has been made of recycled materials. The color comes from combining different types of paper, some of which may have had the ink left on them. The second type is called corrugated cardboard, or just corrugated. It is commonly used to make what most people call “cardboard boxes.” Corrugated is a paper sandwich of linerboard (the two outer layers) and the medium (the ribbed inner layer).
While some corrugated cardboard is recycled at curbside, the bulk of it comes from commercial rather than residential sources. If you’ve every checked the service area of your local supermarket or furniture store, you’ll see the volume of corrugated packing material used by commercial outlets. That’s because corrugated containers are sturdy, strong, and can be custom-made to a particular order.
Like homeowners, stores usually have their garbage hauler or recycling service collect their cardboard. The hauler next sells it to a dealer, who collects and guarantees quantities of a material to end users. In most cases, the end user is a paper mill.
At the mill, the corrugated is pulped and blended with additional pulp from wood chips. Broken, thus shorter and weaker, old fibers are blended with the new pulp to make the medium. Recycled paper fibers and new pulp are blended to make linerboard. Then the medium and the linerboard are shipped to a boxboard plant, where the manufacturing process is finished. The medium is corrugated by specially-geared machines, the linerboards are glued on, and the resulting flat pieces, called mats, are trimmed to size and creased along a pattern of folds. The mats are shipped flat to customers who set them up into boxes. Then the boxes are used to package products for shipping.
Oregon has four major cardboard recycling plants: Weyerhauser in North Bend makes medium, but their Springfield plant makes linerboard; Willamette Industries in Albany makes only linerboard. Georgia-Pacific in Toledo makes both medium and linerboard. The latter two plants also make recycled paper for brown, or Kraft, paper bags.