The journey of a discarded piece of A4 paper

By the time a piece of paperwork lands on your desk or elsewhere in the office, that humble piece of A4 has already had quite a journey. Even if its constituent fibres have been through the recycling process several times it will usually have started life at a tree farm or commercial forest – hopefully an environmentally-friendly one that replants to replace the trees it uses.

On arrival at the at the paper manufacturers the wood will have been washed and cut into small wood chips. These are then pulped to separate the wood fibres, forming a mushy, watery solution. Through a number of different processes the water is gradually removed and the pulp is heated, dried and pressed, eventually becoming usable paper and cut to appropriate size.

If you’ve ever wondered how the size of an A4 sheet was arrived at, our paper sizing is based on a German system where an ‘A’ paper is 1 square metre. Each time you fold the paper in half you get the next size rating so an A1 is half the size of an A, A2 is half the size of A1 and so on, through the standard A4 and all the way down to A8.

The A4 sheet will be packaged and sold, usually alongside hundreds or thousands of its fellows and someone, somewhere will write, draw or print on it. Then send it to you.

If it’s not something you need to keep you will generally discard it. 67% of the paper and cardboard used in the UK is recovered for recycling and hopefully you will have your own recycling bins and systems in place, both at home and at work. Waste Management Services with Thetford International  can help you devise waste management strategies that are both greener and can help save you money in the long run.

From your recycling bin, the paper will usually end up at a local recycling site where all the paper collected will be graded into different qualities. It will then be pulped in a tank with various chemicals that help to separate the fibres. These fibres are screened, cleaned and de-inked to leave a pulp that is pretty much the same as the original paper pulp. This can be dried and rolled, cut into size and that discarded piece of A4 can start its useful life anew.