What Are the Different Types of Environmentally-Friendly Paper?

Nicole Etolen

For many years, most mass-market paper products were made from wood fiber harvested from trees. With millions of sheets of paper used every day around the world, demand for paper places a serious strain on the world’s forests, and many companies are turning to more eco-friendly options. Environmentally-friendly paper is usually made either from renewable fiber sources or by recycling old paper.

Biodegradable toilet paper is environmentally friendly.
Biodegradable toilet paper is environmentally friendly.

One of the most common types of environmentally-friendly paper products is that made from recycled paper. Used paper, such as brochures, catalogs, and printer paper, is collected through neighborhood recycling programs and sent to a special facility to be sorted out from the rest of the recyclables and any trash that finds its way into the bins. From there, it is sent to another facility, where the paper is shredded, mixed into a pulp, and turned into clean fibers that can be used to make other paper products. Recycling paper not only allows companies to create new product from an old one, but also keeps the paper out of the landfills. This process can often be repeated up to seven times, depending on the strength of the paper fibers.

Recycled paper.
Recycled paper.

Those who are feeling crafty can skip the recycling plant entirely and make their own environmentally-friendly paper from scraps and waste at home. There are several different methods to making homemade recycled paper, but most involve tools that can be found in the kitchen, such as an eggbeater, a rolling pin, a shallow pan, and cornstarch. The process is a little time-consuming, and it can take up to a day for the finished product to dry. One added benefit to making homemade paper is that it can be easily decorated during the process.

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Used printer paper can be recycled.
Used printer paper can be recycled.

Environmentally-friendly paper can also be made from sources other than trees. While trees can take many years to grow large enough to make them worth harvesting, many other sources of paper fibers grow much quicker. Bamboo, flax, and hemp are popular choices that result in strong paper products. These fibers typically require less bleaching and processing than wood fibers, which helps keep the level of manufacturing pollution down. Non-wood fibers can also often be recycled more times than wood fibers.

A bag made of recycled paper.
A bag made of recycled paper.

Although paper made from trees is typically not considered environmentally-friendly paper, the logging industries throughout the world are taking measures to reduce the strain on the forest preserves. In the United States, the actual number of trees has significantly increased in the last 50 years, as the logging industry now plants five trees for every one that they cut down. As some paper products benefit more from using virgin materials, or those that haven’t been recycled, this helps ensure that there will be plenty of resources left for future generations.

The flax plant can be used to make one type of environmentally-friendly paper.
The flax plant can be used to make one type of environmentally-friendly paper.
The United States logging industry is taking measures to make the paper industry more sustainable.
The United States logging industry is taking measures to make the paper industry more sustainable.

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