Questions about terminology
What is the difference between uncoated and coated paper?
Uncoated paper is geared to office-based uses (offset paper, photocopies, envelopes, etc.). The fibres overlap and are simply ‘stuck’ down to avoid absorbing ink. Coated paper (used for newspapers and magazines, etc.) is prepared by adding a layer of talc or kaolin which gives it a specific appearance and characteristics for printing. It can be “satinised” or “calendered“ to give it the necessary shine for certain types of four-colour printing
What is the difference between mechanical pulp and chemical pulp?
Mechanical pulp is obtained by disintegrating wood with the help of discs or cylindrical grindstones (crushing machines). Lignin remains bound to the fibres in this type of pulp and the paper is referred to as “wood containing” paper.
Chemical pulp is obtained by ‘cooking’ the wood at high temperature in “digesters” with added chemical products (soda and bisulphate). This washing process enables the fibres to be isolated by separating them from the lignin. The paper produced from this pulp is called “wood-free”.
Questions about recycling
How many times can paper be recycled?
Paper fibres lose their properties during each recycling process because they are progressively broken down. After 6-8 recycling runs, they are no longer fit to make paper or board.
Can recycled fibres be used to make paper indefinitely?
No, because, as with all natural substances, cellulose fibre has its own life cycle. Once extracted from the wood, it can be recycled several times but it ends up deteriorating. It must therefore be regenerated with the addition of new fibres.
Questions about wood raw materials
What types of trees are used to make paper?
Spruce, Oak, Ash, Pine and Birch, but almost any type of tree can be used to make paper although paper properties vary depending on the types of species. Conifers, with their long fibres, give paper its resistance while the short fibres from broadleaf species give it its opacity. Fibres are blended depending on the desired paper quality.
Is the French paper industry responsible for deforestation in Amazonia and Indonesia?
Contrary to popular misconceptions, the French paper industry does not contribute to deforestation (93% of wood comes from France, or neighbouring countries). Indeed, the French industry plays a part in the sustainable management of forests, particularly through thinning operations which ensures lasting growth in the forest. There are many causes of deforestation which are both complex and variable according to the regions of the world concerned. In the case of the Amazonian rainforest, the main driver of deforestation comes from land-less peasant farmers who, after felling the valuable trees and clearing the land by burning, use it for farming.
How do we know that the paper we buy does not contribute to deforestation?
Certification schemes (such as PEFC or FSC) aim to provide the consumer with a guarantee that they can buy wood or wood-based products without fear that they are contributing to deforestation. As far as possible, the French paper industry uses fibres from sustainably managed forests certified by third parties.
How much wood does it take to produce 1kg of paper?
It is hard to estimate the quantity of wood required because there are many sorts of paper (graphic, wrapping, etc.) and each has a very different composition (proportion of fibres, fillers, minerals and additives). The ratio of recovered fibres and virgin fibres as well as the industrial process used makes estimating this difficult.
Nevertheless, if we assume that 100 % of a batch of paper is produced from wood, we find that about 2kg of wood is needed to produce 1kg of newspaper and 4kg of wood for a 1kg ream of paper.
Other frequently asked questions
Can I find the contact details of a producer making a specific type of paper in particular geographical area?
There is an application available on the COPACEL website (IFREM web link) to identify French paper companies making a specific type of paper or board in a given geographical area. This tool also provides the contact details of French pulp, paper and board companies too.
Paper mills give off a distinctive smell. Where does this come from?
Some paper mills (especially pulp factories) can emit odours, particularly when cooking wood. These odours have no impact to health. These are the subject of various studies and investments to reduce them to enhance well-being in the neighbouring area around the production plants. It should be noted that the plumes of white smoke rising from the factories is mainly… steam.