There are two types of recycled fibre which can be used to make recycled paper.
Recycled paper made from post-consumer reclaimed material comes from a consumer or commercial product, such as a Corporate Knights magazine, that has been read and returned by the end customer of the product.
The other type of recycled fibre, pre-consumer reclaimed material, is a waste product such as printer overruns or newsstand returns, which then becomes an input for recycled paper.
The difference is that paper recycled from the procured magazine represents fibre that has already been used (being read—hopefully cover to cover) and now is coming back for its second life as an input, whereas the fibre that comes from a waste product has not yet served an end-use before it is used to make paper.
While both types of recycled fibre provide upsides for the environment, only recycled fibre from post-consumer materials embodies the circular economy principles, where products and services are traded in closed loops or ‘cycles.’.
Pre-consumer fibre does not reach end-users. And it is not a full-fledged member of the circular economy as it never serves a useful purpose in the consumer marketplace before it is recycled.
Only recycled paper made using post-consumer reclaimed material, like Rolland paper, is sourced from recycling programs fed by recycling bins filled with waste paper such as magazines, newspapers, promotional materials, packaging, boxes, and office documents that have already served one useful cycle from producer to consumer.
So which kind of recycled paper is better for the environment?
Post-consumer recycled paper is better for the environment in most cases because it reduces the usage of virgin fibre, which means more trees. The use of post-consumer fibres also involves partnering with external organizations, local municipal governments or landfill operators to make systematic changes for diverting paper waste from landfills and closing the loop.
While it makes sense to satisfy as much of our paper needs as possible with post-consumer fibre, there is still a need for virgin fibre from responsible managed forests, as paper cannot be recycled forever. Wood fibres can be reused five to seven times as new products. This means that virgin fibre sourced from responsibly-managed FSC-certified forests remains an essential part of sustainable paper manufacturers like Rolland.
While it may seem counterintuitive, there can be an environmental upside to using virgin fibre from sustainably managed forests, because it gives an incentive for landowners to keep forests intact, rather than selling them for development and other non-forest purposes. Forest coverage has been on the upswing in the United States. Forest surface area has increased by three percent over sixty years and forest volumes have increased by 58 percent, although this summer’s fires have taken back some of the gains.
So how does Rolland paper stack up? Rolland has been manufacturing recycled paper using post-consumer fibre since 1989, and using renewable biogas energy since 2004.
A Life Cycle Analysis conducted by a third-party consulting firm shows that the entire Rolland Enviro Product line has a much smaller environmental footprint than the average virgin and 100 per cent recycled papers made in North America.
Due to its 100 per cent post-consumer content, de-inking without chlorine, low water usage, and reliance on renewable energy, Rolland Enviro has broad environmental benefits compared to virgin paper, including 62 percent less impact on climate change, Zero negative impact on biodiversity, and 76 percent less negative impact on water quality.
Rolland’s superior environmental performance reflects the fact that its paper mill is set up to manufacture post-consumer recycled paper, using premium recycled fibre from de-inking facilities in its Sustana business family. Rolland’s full control over the recycled pulping and paper making processes also makes for superior quality assurance and reflects the company’s longstanding commitment to highest-quality recycled paper manufacturing process.
In some cases, adding recycled fibre to the feedstock of paper mills set up to use virgin fibre has resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions, but Rolland has taken a different approach to guard against this by using plants designed and fine-tuned to make paper from post-consumer fibre, using a holistic lifecycle assessment scorecard to ensure real environmental benefits.
Rolland believes that sustainable paper is about focusing on post-consumer manufacturing in the broad sense (in the paper mill and the fibre supply chain), and to performing comprehensive measurements of environmental impacts which point the way to improvements.
The company’s long-term holistic commitment to post-consumer recycled paper and to playing an active role in the circular economy sets it apart from many of its competitors.