Recycled Paper versus Virgin Paper: What’s the Difference?
Have you ever wondered what the differences are between virgin and recycled paper? From the way they’re produced to how they impact the environment, these products that end up looking nearly identical on store shelves are actually quite different.
While the finished product is about the same, virgin and recycled paper are produced very differently.
- Virgin paper is made directly from trees that have been cut and milled into pulp. The pulp is then processed to create paper.
- Recycled paper is made out of discarded paper and other like materials that are processed to remove ink and then formed into pulp. The pulp is then processed to create paper. The two main sources used to create recycled paper are pre- and post-consumer materials.
* Pre-consumer materials are those that never made it to the consumer and are sent directly from factories and warehouses to be recycled.
* Post-consumer materials are things like discarded newspaper, office copy paper, junk mail and other forms of paper the average person places in their recycling bin or brings to a recycling facility.
Both virgin and recycled paper are bleached to give them the bright white appearance we’ve come to recognize as standard.
Differences in environmental impact
It’s no secret that recycled paper is easier on the environment than its non-recycled counterpart. Here are some of the main ways they differ:
- Recycled paper requires no trees for production whereas virgin paper does. Therefore, the creation of virgin paper depletes this natural resource.
- Since recycled paper is created from paper waste, its creation saves massive amounts of excess waste from being shipped to landfills.
- Producing paper from virgin fiber is much more energy and water intensive than producing recycled paper. It also releases a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions into the environment.
There is a difference in price between virgin and recycled papers. Typically, recycled paper costs more. Here are some reasons why:
- Despite recycled paper’s increasing popularity over the years, there is still a greater demand for virgin paper. Therefore, virgin paper manufacturers can pass on a lower cost to the consumer based on sheer economics of scale.
- Recycled paper requires more processing to make it consumer-ready. Collecting and sorting through recovered waste paper is also very time and labor intensive, therefore driving up the cost.
When choosing between these two paper types, the decision will ultimately come down to cost and environmental impact. If you feel conserving natural resources is worth spending a few more dollars, than recycled paper is the way to go. Or, if virgin paper is still your preference, consider recycling it rather than throwing it in the trash to save landfill space and lessen your impact on the environment.
Differences Between Virgin and Recycled Paper