Ask G

Ask G: How many times can paper be recycled?

The quality of paper fibre is reduced after use and recycling

Is it true that paper can only be recycled 6 times?

Dalal, NSW

Shredded, used paper ready for recycling

Paper fibres deteriorate after many rounds of use and recycling.

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Paper is one material with a tendency towards 'downcycling' - the recycling of a material into another of lesser quality.

The fibres weaken and deteriorate during both paper use and the recycling process.

Some virgin material, preferably from greener sources, is needed somewhere in the mix.

The key is matching fibre quality to the needs of the situation in which they're used.

A higher quality pulp source may be desired for presentation papers and they can later be recycled.

At the other end of the scale, recycled materials are more than good enough to make toilet paper, but I doubt you'll want to recycle that after use!