I remember being a kid and sitting in class learning about all of the important things in life. You know, D.A.R.E., Smokey the Bear, etc. I remember learning about recycling and its impact on the environment, but I can’t recall any animated character to go along with it. Although my memories are a bit vague about what was taught to us, I still know that recycling is important and plays a significant role in the health of our environment.
A good friend of mine’s father was an engineer at a local landfill so for one of our field trips, we visited his place of work. I recall the tour, seeing the huge machinery sifting through the municipal solid waste materials, and being disgusted by the smell of it all. On our visit, it was stressed how important it was to dispose of recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, glass, etc. properly so they wouldn’t end up in a landfill.
Luckily for us, many years ago someone developed a process to recycle certain materials so they wouldn’t be buried in the ground leaving a horrific odor for anyone within a surprisingly far proximity to smell. For the sake of this post, I will focus on the 10 step process of how paper is recycled and in a later post I will discuss the recycling process for other recyclable materials.
Please see the steps below for the paper waste recycling process:
Step 1: Sorting Paper Waste- Removing all paper that has contaminants such as food, plastic, metal and other trash can be done by hand. Many businesses will sort through their paper easily with such tools as those built by MSS, Inc..
Step 2: Collection and Transportation- Your paper trash can be taken to a local recycling center, recycling bin, or recycling center can pick it up.
Step 3: Paper Storage- Paper mills then store the paper until it is needed in the next phase of the process. This paper is then transferred on large conveyors for the next step.
Step 4: Re-pulping and Screening- The pulper then chops the recovered paper into small pieces while heating the mixture to break it down into fibers. The fibers are then screened through to ensure there are no more contaminants.
Step 5: Paper Cleaning- To further clean paper waste, a process called spinner is then carried out. This process will remove heavier, harder to remove objects.
Step 6: De-inking- Allows the paper to be removed of inks and other adhesive materials through the use of water and air bubbles.
Step 7: Refining, Bleaching, and Color Stripping- The recycled fibers are separated into individual fibers so they can be further prepped. If the fibers contain a color they will be stripped of the dyes and if the recycled paper is to be white, it will be bleached with hydrogen peroxide.
Step 8: Paper Making- The pulp is finally mixed with water and chemicals until it is placed on a screen which drains the pulp of water. Once drained the pulp is in a sheet and passed through heated metal rollers that dry the paper.
So next time you plan on just throwing away that paper rather than recycling it, think about this process and the nasty odor people are forced to smell when someone chooses not to recycle paper waste.