When comparing virgin vs recycled paper products, the benefits of the two become obscured in the many forms they take. In reality, both virgin paper and recycled paper’s manufacturing processes play separate yet vital roles in a highly consumptive society. Below, we’ll discuss the benefits and life cycles of recycled and virgin paper to determine which option is better functionally and economically.
What Is Virgin Paper?
Virgin paper is a non-recyclable paper that’s considered high quality because it’s primarily made of wood pulp or cotton. Wood pulp and virgin pulp are virtually the same things. Virgin pulp only implies that the pulp is being prepped for the paper manufacturing process. During the production process, it can be mechanically or chemically treated to separate the cellulose fibers.
Its fabrication is responsible for several familiar household products: from napkins to bathroom tissue to paper coffee cups and beyond. Virgin paper products are ideal for having high absorbance and giving good printing results. Around 90% of virgin paper is made of wood pulp and most paper products have some traces of virgin fibers in them. Responsibly sourced virgin paper is derived from forests where wood pulp can be collected while keeping older tree generations alive and growing.
What is Recycled Paper?
Recycled paper is created from used paper, wood chips, bindery trimmings, and other things leftover from the paper-making process. After collecting waste materials, the restoration of recycled paper involves many steps, the most important ones being purification and deinking. Deinking is the removal of ink from used paper fibers.
Along the way, “new” recycled paper is assembled using virgin fibers to restore the paper’s strength. And since virgin paper is the origin of recycled paper, as long as pure virgin fibers are being produced, recycled paper can be created. However, recycled paper products are categorized as nondurable, which means they can only be recycled a handful of times before breaking down completely. That makes it the better economical choice for manufacturers compared to virgin paper.
Virgin vs Recycled Paper
Both paper types have their benefits. For a lot of people, recycled paper is better than virgin paper for eco-friendly practices. According to the EPA, 46 million tons of paper were recycled in 2018, with nondurable goods made of paper having a recycling rate of 43 percent that year.
That’s the highest it’s been in recent years, by the American Forest and Paper Association’s standard, and is projected to increase every year. Virgin paper, on the other hand, is sought after for its resistance to yellowing and fraying. It’s often used for conserving important publications such as religious scripture, dictionaries, textbooks, and anti-counterfeiting products like financial documents.
What’s more, nearly half of recycled paper went into manufacturing containerboard. Containerboard is a type of paper-based material – also called paperboard, or boxboard – normally used to make boxes. It’s the most recycled packaging material in the US. That’s because boxes in general are multi-functional.
This reason alone extends their lifecycle and makes recycled paper products like recycled boxes ideal for delivery services, domestic and international package shipments, and at-home storage use. Ultimately, virgin paper keeps the recycled paper in circulation.
When comparing virgin paper vs recycled paper, understand both options play a cyclical role in each other’s lives while maintaining the paper supply and appeasing consumer needs. Considering this, the better paper to purchase depends on the needs of the individual.
So while recycled paper and products cost less and last years to decades depending on the product and its use, virgin paper is the better option strength-wise and is great for publishing important works.