This literature review aims to explore the research question; “What are the benefits to recycling paper both industrially and within non-industrial circumstances and as such is there any detriments to recycling paper?”.
Pivnenko et al. explores the chemicals in paper and recycled papers (Pivnenko et al., 2015, p.135). It compiles a table totalling chemicals used in certain paper productions and national industries while the paper is also a literature review highlighting sources important in the carcinogenicity and toxicity of chemicals used in certain paper processing (and inclusive of recycled paper processing as well).
In exploring the losses of strength, durability, and quality in paper during the recycling project; Nazhad’s thesis that when recycling paper the tensile strength is at a loss due to the loss of the fines (Nazhad, 1994, p.67-68). Another paper of note by Peretz et al. backs this up as it explores that paper waste has been recycled multiple times and “through the recycling process, the fibres are shortened by mechanical erosion” (Peretz et al., 2021, p. 1599). Bouchard and Douek (1994) have explored that the flexibility decreases when recycling paper alongside the strength in that there are changes in the surface properties of the pulp during the recycling process which causes these changes to happen (Bouchard, Douek, 1994, p.131). However, this is only if the paper has been processed in certain ways; most notably via mechanical means- the study also explores how there is no evidence for lignin degradation as the concentration remains constant (Bouchard, Douek, 1994, p.135).
However, Nazhad’s paper also mentions the extreme benefits to recycling paper in reducing landfill sizes in which 35 million tonnes of paper recycled had amounted to the reduction of a landfill that hypothetically be the size of 14.3 square kilometres and to the depth of 4 metres (Nazhad, 1994, p.1). Therefore, despite the losses of quality in paper – in which is the cost of reducing landfill sizes would be a greater turnout rather than causing pollution to the environment via land use for garbage disposal.
Nonetheless, Peretz explains that recycling paper in the industrial context has still caused the filling of landfills as recycled paper sludge that has too short paper fibres being disposed in landfills which have caused landfilling, greenhouse gas emissions and the contamination of groundwater (Peretz et al., 2021, p.1600). Moreover, Laurijssen’s study explores how recycling paper saves around 1 t CO2/t paper than without recycling (Laurijssen et al., 2010, pp. 1214). In relation to the health detriments that recycling paper can cause, Vukoje’s paper states that the chemicals from the inks in the recycled paper can cause health problems or safety issues (Vukoje, 2018, p. 516). However, this can be countered through enzymatic deinking which uses cellulases and hemicellusases to remove the ink (Vukoje, 2018). Along with a lot of paper that can be recycled is often filled with fillers like calcium carbonate and kaolin (Vukoje, 2018, p. 521).
According to Virtanen and Nilsson’s study if the printing process had different chemicals, it would be a good source of clean energy (Virtanen, Nilsson, 1992, p. 11). From this it shows that the chemicals used in ink could be a causation for bad health if burnt up- which could purport that making recycled paper in a home environment may not be safe to do. The paper also goes through how the societal idea of recycling equals better in the relation to paper and the idea of its benefits to the environment in that recycling (in a presumably, industrial scale) leads to more SO2 emissions (Virtanen, Nilsson, 1992, p.31).
In conclusion, this literature review highlights important studies in the idea of the benefits to recycling paper while also arguing the dangers (inclusive of chemical usage and chemical recycling). It has been shown through multiple studies that the strength, flexibility, and quality of the paper diminishes when recycling- especially over multiple cycles if processed in certain ways. However, the benefit of reducing landfill size (not fully eliminating this due to the recycled paper sludge being landfilled) and general reduction of pollution could out way the negative quality detriments.
In the idea of how recycling in the home; the chemicals could be dangerous if the material being recycled is or has been printed on prior. Along with actual environmental dangers to recycling paper- this literature review gives a well rounded look at studies both looking at the benefits and the detriments.
Pivnenko, Kostyantyn, Eriksson, Eva, Astrup, Thomas F. (2015) ‘Waste paper for recycling: Overview and identification of potentially critical substances’ in Waste management, Vol. 45, pp. 134 – 142
Nazhad, Mousa M. (1994) Fundamentals of strength loss in recycled paper, University of British Columbia Library, Vancouver, pp. 1 – 154
Peretz, Roi, Mamane, Hadas, Wissotzky, Eli, Sterenzon, Elizaveta, Gerchman, Yoram (2021) ‘Making cardboard and paper recycling more sustainable: Recycled paper sludge for energy production and water-treatment applications’ in Waste and Biomass Valorization, Vol. 12, pp. 1599 – 1608
Bouchard, J., Douek, M. (1994) ‘The effects of recycling on the chemical properties of pulps’ in Journal of pulp and paper science, Vol. 25, No. 5, pp. 131 – 136
Laurijssen, Jobien, Marsidi, Marc, Westenbroek, Annita, Worrell, Ernst, Faaij, Andre (2010) ‘Paper and biomass for energy?: The impact of paper recycling on energy and CO2 emissions’ in Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Vol. 54, No. 12, pp. 1208 – 1218
Vukoje, Marina, Rožić, Mirela (2018) ‘Various valorisation routes of paper intended for recycling a review’ in Cellul. Chem. Technol, Vol. 57, No. 7 – 8, pp. 515 – 541
Virtanen, Yrjö, Nilsson, Sten (1992) Some environmental policy implications of recycling paper products in Western Europe, pp. 1 - 39