Waste paper is a material that can be reused in manufacturing relatively easy and conveniently. On average 70% of the collected waste paper in Europe is recycled. It is a very good indicator, compared to recycling of other types of materials. However, this indicator could also be much higher for such a material as paper.
On average 30% of waste paper is transported to landfills, despite the fact that it can be recycled relatively easy.
As CEPI statistics shows, 8% of the waste paper buried at European landfills could have been recycled. However, this waste paper has ended up in waste mountains at landfills — mainly because waste is not sorted at all or is sorted incorrectly.
Very often paper and paper products are disposed of together with other household waste in the trash bin and are transported to landfills for burying together with unsorted waste. Paper that is disposed of together with unsorted waste mainly is not used for recycling, as it is spoiled as a result of contact with food waste.
Whereas the remaining 22% of the waste paper or paper products transported to landfills cannot be recycled because they are unsuitable or do not meet the recycling criteria. This group of waste paper contains dirty paper, many types of paper packaging, composite materials, laminated paper and waste paper with short fibre, which does not have the required qualities after recycling to be used as a qualitative material for manufacturing.
Waste paper with short fibre
The possibilities of recycling paper fibre are very limited. By recycling it multiple times, the fibre gradually becomes shorter and breaks down, deteriorating the paper quality and making it unsuitable for recycling.
Paper is recycled 4–5 on average, and then it is removed from the cycle of waste paper recycling.
Currently, a large portion of such waste paper is burnt or buried at landfills.
Dirty, greasy and wet paper, and paper that contains food residue, cannot be used for recycling, as such waste paper may affect the quality of the new product during the recycling process. Therefore, such waste paper is burnt or buried at landfills.
Paper packaging and other paper products, the design of which contains not only paper, but also materials of other structure, cannot be disposed of together with sorted paper waste. This group of packaging includes, for example, paper packaging with plastic windows or elements made of any other material.
This type of paper products is difficult to recycle, as the process of recycling of each individual material can be different; therefore, all these different materials cannot be put in one recycling boiler.
The right step would be to separate each material, if possible, and dispose of it in the respective container, so that each material is forwarded for the respective recycling cycle, instead of a landfill.
A composite material is a material made of more than one material.
Paper-based composite materials are frequently used for production of food packaging.
This type of packaging is not considered recyclable waste paper, as its recycling process is much more complicated and completely different from the recycling process of pure paper.
A good example is paper dishes and tetra packs, for production of which various materials are used. For example, juice packs are made of a material consisting of 3 components — paper, aluminium and polymer.
The materials composing a composite material have to be separated from each other before forwarding them for the recycling process. It is an expensive and complex process; therefore, majority of paper-based composite materials end up at landfills.
Paper coated with wax or laminate film does not fall under non-recyclable waste paper. This type of waste paper is not a composite material, but the reasons for not using this waste paper for recycling are exactly the same.
Poorly sorted waste paper
Residents can transfer paper for recycling or dispose of it in the special collection containers. However, the paper and cardboard that is disposed of in these containers is not uniform; therefore, prior to recycling, the waste manager sorts this waste repeatedly by type.
It is very important to carry out the sorting process qualitatively, because also carelessly sorted waste paper falls under the category of low class waste paper, where also non-recyclable waste paper and other materials, which should not be there, can be found among recyclable waste paper. Manufacturers cannot use such a mix of raw materials in production, so this waste is mostly transported to a landfill.
Both residents, and waste managers should pay great attention to ensure that the paper is not polluted with residue of food products, plastic, metal and wood impurities and protective coating, because in this case the paper becomes invalid for recycling.
Balticfloc project LIFE_PHIPP
Within the project LIFE_PHIPP of LIFE project, low class waste paper will be recycled, thus reducing the amount of waste buried at landfills and environmental pollution.
Low class waste paper, mixed with high-value hemp fibre, will be used for production of innovative natural fibre heat insulation material.
PROJECT “PAPER – HEMP INSULATION PILOT PRODUCTION” (LIFE PHIPP, LIFE17ENV/LV/000335) IS IMPLEMENTED WITH THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION LIFE PROGRAM AND STATE REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY REPUBLIC OF LATVIA ADMINISTRATION OF LATVIAN ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION FUND.