How do you choose an environmentally friendly paper stock? Choosing the right paper for a print job requires any designer to consider a whole slew of variables: texture, brightness, weight, size, finish, color, and—of course—how the paper was sourced.
Ninety percent of paper pulp comes from wood. In fact, about a third of the trees felled around the world today are cut down to produce paper. Buying recycled paper helps reduce this deforestation by decreasing demand for virgin fiber. Additionally, producing paper from recycled pulp requires up to 55% less water than if a mill uses virgin pulp. Because paper production uses more water than most other industries, this savings in water adds up quickly.
Buying recycled paper is not as simple as it sounds, though. If you’ve shopped around, you’ll know that there are a few different categories of recycled paper.
MILL BROKE comes from the scrap collected within a paper mill during paper production. Making paper from mill broke is like scraping the bowl after you make cookie dough, so you can make one more cookie with the leftovers. Mill broke makes more efficient use of felled trees by using what would otherwise be wasted.
PRE-CONSUMER WASTE comes from paper that left the mill, but which never reached consumers. For example, if a printer runs a large job and trims off the edges, those edges are pre-consumer waste. Like mill broke, pre-consumer waste makes efficient use of resources by reclaiming unused paper and putting it back into the production process.
POST-CONSUMER WASTE comes from you and people like you. When you put your newspaper or old reports or phone books into the recycling bin, that’s post-consumer waste. Paper that’s 100% made from post-consumer waste calls for no virgin fibers and no deforestation.
Now, often paper is produced as a blend of recycled and non-recycled fibers. For example, New Leaf Paper lists some of its stock as “80% recycled, 60% post-consumer waste.” That means 60% of the paper comes from post-consumer waste, 20% from pre-consumer waste and/or mill broke, and 20% from virgin fibers.
Choosing what type and percentage of recycled content you’re comfortable with is up to you and, to some degree, what’s available in the market. At Double 6 Design, we’ve been buying a lot of our paper from New Leaf. They use higher percentages of post-consumer waster content, plus their paper is good quality and affordable.
Stay tuned for the next post in our Green Series, on chlorine-free paper processing. In the future we’ll also cover different environmentally friendly certifications and what to consider when choosing inks.