What Is Recycled Pulp?

K.C. Bruning

Recycled pulp is paper from which the ink has been removed and the paper fibers released. In this form, the material is ready to be used to make paper again. It is also known as deinked pulp (DIP).

A bag made of recycled pulp.
A bag made of recycled pulp.

When it is first cleaned and separated, recycled pulp often looks like a pile of dirt or snow, depending on the dominant color of the paper. It can then be pounded into sheets or refined further to create new products.

Printer paper may contain recycled pulp.
Printer paper may contain recycled pulp.

The paper used for making recycled pulp is delivered to paper mills wrapped in bales. Then the paper is separated by grade or type. A conveyor belt then moves stacks of paper through the pulper.

When paper is recycled, the ink is removed and the paper is repurposed into new paper.
When paper is recycled, the ink is removed and the paper is repurposed into new paper.

Water, chemicals, and chopping blades are used to break down paper in the pulper. The process first breaks the paper down into fibers. Then it melts into the mush which is recycled pulp.

For the most part, recycled pulp is made out of clean discarded paper. It does not contain significant amounts of food particles, metal, or plastic. As it is impossible to collect completely clean paper in large volumes, some matter is removed from it during the pulping process.

The process of extracting unwanted matter from recycled pulp is called screening. It consists of forcing pulp through screens in order to catch these particles. This process can eliminate things such as small pieces of glue or plastic. Once it has been screened, the pulp is often cleaned further. It is funneled into cone-shaped cylinders which weed out other refuse by catching it in the bottom of the containers or throwing them out as they turn around.

After cleaning pulp, the ink and any other flat residue such as label glue is removed in a process called deinking. The first step is to run water through the pulp. Then if ink still remains, it is put in a vat with chemicals called surfactants, which, combined with air, remove the rest of the coloring and deposits it into bubbles which are then skimmed from the top of the pulp.

There are several products that use or are completely made out of recycled pulp. Some of the most common include toilet paper and newsprint. Several kinds of writing and printer papers also contain a high percentage of the pulp.

Special machines process recycled pulp so that it can be made into new products. Some of these are constructed so that they conserve water, make little use of electricity, and otherwise continue the spirit of conservation in the process. Many of these machines are semi-automatic and require a fair amount of human interaction.

Recycled pulp is often used to make toilet paper.
Recycled pulp is often used to make toilet paper.

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Discussion Comments


There isn't a big price difference when you buy paper products made from recycled pulp as compared to other paper products, so you should do whatever makes you happy. However, you should be aware that some recycled items cost more than items made from never used materials.

This is especially true when you start talking about wood items. The expense of recycling wood runs up the total cost that you pay for the final products. So, you should know that everything about recycling is not good.


Whenever possible I buy recycled paper products. Some of the items, like greeting cards, will have a note or stamp that lets you know the items were made from recycled paper. This comes in handy since the recycled paper looks the same as the other to me.

Buying the recycled items is a simple way to make a difference. I know I'm not saving the world, but I do what I can.


Isn't that amazing how they can recycle paper like that. Just think how much money and storage area that saves. Almost anything can be recycled if you're willing to figure out how and where it can be used.

I have a neighbor who builds things out of old barn wood. He goes around and tears down and cleans up old barns that people no longer want on their property. He is helping the people by removing the barns and he gets the building material at no charge.

He built us an outside storage building and workshop and the old wood he used works perfectly because our house is over 100 years old and the old wood of the out building matches the look of the house. This is the way recycling should work.

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