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Re: [greenyes] paper recycling
Does anybody track the theoretical limits to materials reuse (as in this fiber example), versus what the US is actually doing?  This would seem to be a very useful aggregate measure of the success (or lack thereof) of recycling programs.  Something like:  "A paper fiber can be recycled 6 times, but on average in the US is used only 1.5 times..."

Similarly, most materials degrade somewhat in successive recycling loops.  As noted by John below, as the quality deteriorates, the applications change to lower value ones, such as paper towels for paper.  It would be nice if the "end-of-the line" consumptive uses (such as toilet paper) were where end-of-the line fibers went.  This would apply to other materials as well.  Keeping statistics on how often this is actually happening would provide another very useful aggregate statistic on the resource efficiency of current production systems.  What percentage of toilet paper, for example, is comprised of the shortest fibers in their "last run" through the recycling system?  

If anybody tracks this info, or has worked on what such measures might look like, please post to the list.

-Doug Koplow

Doug Koplow
Earth Track, Inc.
2067 Massachusetts Avenue - 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA  02140
Tel:  617/661-4700
Fax: 617/354-0463

>>> "John R" <jr@no.address> 01/12/04 10:29AM >>> says:

+ACI-According to our paper gurus at Weyerhaeuser (our buyer), completely clean white paper could theoretically be recycled nine times. But since there are so many inks, clays, glues, etc. on paper, it is more realistic to say four times.

It+IBk-s the length of the fiber that determines how many times it can go through the recycling process, which is why we don+IBk-t like shredded paper. Here+IBk-s how it works: Recycled paper is poured into a vat of liquid where it gets mixed into a slurry before it+IBk-s remanufactured. As the new paper gets recycled again and again, the fibers get shorter and shorter each time they go through the process. Shorter fibers are only useful for lower grades of paper. For example, once high grade office paper or junk mail has enjoyed a few lives as letterhead or stationery, it will be demoted and used for shorter fiber applications such as paper toweling. Paper fibers will eventually get too short to be rewoven into new paper and they get washed out in the process.+ACI-

I found more opinions here: 

So six or seven is not a bad guess I suppose... By the way, I am glad there is some action on this email list, and I hope to be of some use here.

John Ralston
SLM Waste and Recycling Services 


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