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“Greening” Your Office Paper

Making sustainable choices doesn’t have to be stressful; it can start with something as small as making a smart decision about office paper. Paper selection can have a big impact on efficiency, waste and contributing to sustainability goals. There are many types to consider when choosing office paper – recycled content, brightness, basis weight, etc. Then there’s inkjet paper, laser paper, color output paper and literally hundreds of others. Does it make a difference? In a word, yes. We’ve compiled some tips for making better paper choices. Know your logos Last week we talked about FSC®, SFI and other  standard-setting organizations. These easy-to-spot logos help identify paper from certified sources. What’s the story with your printer? Today’s printers can print photos and graphics at a very high resolution. But in order to achieve a high-quality output, you need to choose a paper that has characteristics designed for color printing.  Otherwise, you may find that the results you intended don’t match the output, leading to added waste. If your printer is jamming, it may, in fact, be the paper, not the printer. It’s important to store your paper properly.  If you’re already following the storage guidelines, try switching your brand of paper to one that is performance-certified or that has a jam-free guarantee.  These quick tips can potentially save your company budget from costly printer maintenance calls or purchasing new equipment. Get what you pay for Have you ever wondered why recycled-content paper often has a higher price point than paper made from virgin pulp? Recycled paper has a more complex supply chain and production process than virgin paper, and it’s those extra steps that primarily account for the extra cost. With virgin paper, there are just three steps from the forest to the printer – logging, milling and distribution. Producing recycled paper requires many more steps – with the first (and often costliest) being used paper collection and recovery. Paper, re-imagined In most commingled, single-stream recycling operations, the paper gets shipped to a materials recovery facility (MRF) for sorting by manual and mechanical processes into separate paper grades. Then, it is sent to a paper mill in bales, where the recovered paper is stored until needed. Then, the recovered paper gets re-pulped, heated and mixed to form slurry, or a kind of “paper soup.” The purpose of this step is to break down the paper into its fibrous elements – tiny strands of cellulose that form the building blocks of most commercial paper grades. No matter how well it’s sorted, recovered paper often contains impurities that must be removed before making new paper. Screening (running the pulp through a fine mesh screen) and cleaning (spinning the pulp in a centrifuge) will help eliminate metal, plastic or adhesive pieces (“stickies”) that can affect the strength and uniformity of recycled paper products. After deinking and color stripping (if necessary, based on the type of recycled-content material being produced), the pulp is now ready for papermaking. If you’d like to see how this process works, check out the video of one of Boise’s paper mills in action.

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