Ask G

Ask G: Chemicals in recycled paper

Are recycled paper manufacturers using harmful chemicals?

I've heard that recycled paper isn't as green as everyone reckons because it's bleached with a heap of chemicals. Is that true?

Ernie, NSW

Stack of bleached paper

Credit: iStockphoto

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Recycled paper had its first wave of popularity back in the days when Peter Garrett was a rock star. At the time, there was a bit of a single-issue focus on recycled content.

Recycled paper was either proud to be a wholemeal brown colour or heavily bleached for corporate use.

Thankfully, today paper manufacturers and their customers are considering a broader range of issues, considering chemical use as well as fibre sources.

Choose totally chlorine-free paper over elemental chlorine-free paper and both over papers that are chlorine bleached or that do not state if and how they are bleached.

Also remember that there are other 'green' benefits with recycled-content paper. It takes less energy and water to make new paper from recycled pulp instead of virgin pulp, so it's still well worth buying recycled.

And remember to couple greener products with greener behaviour: whatever your ultimate paper choice is, also reduce your paper consumption.