Using Recycled Paper Makes a Big Difference

Pre-Consumer Waste or Recycled
Paper that is recycled before it reaches the consumer (often from a papermill).
Post-Mill Material or Recycled
A specific type of pre-consumer waste where paper is generated during converting and printing in a facility other than the paper mill.
Post-Consumer Waste
Includes paper, paperboard, and other fibrous wastes from the recycling bins at retail stores, offices, and homes (these items have served their end-use and will be used to make something new). 
De-Inked Material
Waste paper that removed the ink, filler, coatings, etc. in order to manufacture a “purer” recycled product.
Elementally Chlorine Free (ECF)
No chlorine gases, but other chemicals containing chlorine are used for bleaching. ECF paper is often misrepresented as TCF.
Total Chlorine Free (TCF)
No chlorine or chlorine derivatives used to make the paper, which means the paper must come from virgin (new) fiber and therefore cannot use the paper from your recycling bin.
Process Chlorine Free (PCF) or Secondarily Cholrine Free (SCF) Recycled paper processed back into paper using no chlorine or chlorine derivatives. Paper not re-bleached or bleached with an oxygen-based system. 
Wood Free
Paper that is free from visible particles and substances naturally occurring in wood, which cause the paper to yellow with age.

The easiest way to buy the best paper is to look for papers that are Process Chlorine Free (PCF) and have a high percentage of post-consumer content. Check out: for some examples. Another choice is Badger’s Envirographic 100 because it is made from 100% PCF and is 100% post-consumer waster
In 2000, the EPA estimated that paper products generated 71.6 million tons of trash and that number is expected to increase. Pound for pound, paper is the largest component of solid waste and contributes to more than 40% of landfills; at least a quarter of the paper and paperboard could have been made into recycled printing and writing paper. Post-consumer recycled paper provides a 60-70% reduction in energy and uses 55% less water. Chlorine bleaching produces extremely toxic dioxins. One part per trillion of dioxin is enough to cause serious developmental abnormalities in fish embryos and one part per billion can be lethal in some species. Processed chlorine free paper helps eliminate these toxic pollutants and decreases water pollution by 35% and air pollution by 74%.
Paper is made up of tiny fibers and recycled paper makes the most efficient use of these fibers, thereby increasing their lifespan. As explained in the table above, recycled paper must contain pre-consumer or post-consumer waste. Thus, the term “recycled” does not necessarily indicate a substantial environmental impact. The type and proportion of waste product determines part of the paper’s environmental friendliness. Often, the packages of these papers will use the word “recycled” in the following context: “X% Post-Consumer Recycled Content.”
Post consumer waste (PCW) consists of paper that has already been used in some form or another and has been diverted from landfills. This category can include cardboard, newspapers, magazines, stationary etc. Basically, anything that can go into your recycling bin and more. As post consumer waste has already been used for its final purpose, reusing it will reduce the quantity of paper going into landfills. PCW accounts for approximately 60 million tons of annual landfill waste.
Pre consumer (post commercial) waste generally consists of unused or unsold paper products from the “waste” bins of printers and converters. These items may include: trim from envelopes, binding from merchants, and excess newspapers. Mill waste specifically refers to waste collected from paper mills, which is then reintroduced into the papermaking process. Mills have been recycling their waste for years. When packages claim to be “Recycled Paper” but are not marked as “post-consumer waste,” they are most likely referring to pre-consumer waste -not the paper from your recycling bin.
In addition to the percentage of pre and post consumer fibers being used in the paper, there are other considerations to determine an environmentally friendly paper. The U.S. paper industry has become one of the worst water polluters in the world because of its reliance on chlorine intensive bleaching. As we learned in the last edition of On Eagles’ Wings, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population is likely to live in countries with moderate to severe water shortages. Mills using chlorine to produce a whiter paper are also producing organochlorides, which includes dioxins. Dioxins are extremely potent chemical toxins, highly carcinogenic, and are accumulating in the environment. One tablespoon of pure dioxin can totally contaminate the entire Great Lakes. Similar whiteness levels can be achieved by using a non-toxic hydroxide, making this pollution unnecessary.
For further information about what to look for in recycled paper products you can refer to Chlorine Free Products Association at:
Originally posted in “On Eagles’ Wings” June 20th 2004