Paper is collected from community curbside recycling programs or drop-off sites. After the paper is collected, it is transported to a recycling center, or material recovery facility (MRF), where contaminants, like paperclips and staples, are removed. When the paper is free of contaminants, it is sorted into different “grades.” For example, printer paper is a higher grade than newspaper. Once the paper is sorted, it is condensed into a compact cube of bale and sent to a paper mill, where it will be made into new paper.
At the mill, the paper is shredded and mixed with water to make pulp. The pulp is then cleaned and converted to slush in a beater. The necessary color dyes, coatings and other additives are mixed into the slush, which is then pumped onto a large moving screen. As the pulp moves down the screen, most of the water drains away, along with any remaining contaminants and adhesives. Then the paper is cleaned and sometimes “deinked” to remove printing ink. A machine sprays the pulp onto a conveyor belt. Water drips down through the belt’s screen, and the paper fibers begin to bond together. The resulting paper sheet—called “web”—is pressed between heated rollers to remove the remaining water and ensure that the paper is smooth and of a uniform thickness. The paper is wound onto massive rolls, which can be made into new products, such as masking tape, bandages, hospital gowns, coffee filters, lampshades and animal bedding.