Paper recycling in Singapore
In 2020, out of 1.14 million tonnes of paper waste generated in Singapore, only 38% (432 thousand tonnes) of paper was recycled.
Recycled paper is a great source of paper fibres. Incorporating a mixture of recycled paper fibre when forming a new sheet of paper reduces the amount of virgin paper required, which reduces the number of trees being cut down.
However, everytime the paper is recycled, the fibres are further broken down, and ultimately, it becomes too short and weak to make new paper. New virgin fibres are still constantly required to be added back to the system to make certain paper products. Our new fibre today will be tomorrow’s recycled fibre. Office papers can be turned into cartons, cartons can be turned into newspapers, and newspapers into tissue papers. Thus, it is very important to segregate the paper into the different categories, so as to maximise the number of times it can be recycled.
Types of paper collected for recycling
- Old Corrugated Cartons (OCC)
- Black and White Paper (BW)
- Magazines (MA)
- Mixed Paper (MW)
- Old Newspapers (ONP)
Old Corrugated Cartons (OCC)
In terms of volume, Cardboards/Old Corrugated Cartons (OCC) is the most widely recycled. It is usually recycled into other “brown” products, including paperbags and egg trays.
Black and White Paper (BW)
Black White (BW) paper, are white papers with only black colour print, or minimum colour printings. Due to longer fibre length and minimal bleaching agents required, BW paper are considered the highest grade and thus fetches the highest value.
Old Newspapers (ONP)
Old Newspapers (ONP) are considered a lower grade paper, and are generally recycled to make more newsprints.
Magazines and catalogues can be recycled despite its coated appearance. With modern recycling methods, the clay coat, which gives the smooth texture, can be removed.
Paper recycling process
The process of paper recycling often involves:-
- Collection of papers.
- Sorting the papers into different categories.
- Papers are compacted and baled.
- Paper bales are exported overseas to be pulped as there are no paper pulping facilities in Singapore.
- Paper is mixed with water and chemicals to break it down into pulp. It is strained through screens, which remove any adhesives and contaminants, then cleaned, de-inked and bleached (to improve whiteness and purity), and finally, pressed and rolled, ready to be made into new paper products.