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Virgin vs Recycled

Virgin vs Recycled

reused fiber = decline in fiber strength
this is a gradual process, weakening the fiber strength each time it is reused

In many North American mills, there is lack of sorting out of Stickies (such as plastics, waxes, glue) because the process is costly. The lack of control here causes various problems.

Problems with recycled paper products

  • faded print
  • labels and tape not sticking
  • warping
  • porosity with suction cups
  • complete package failure in high humid environments.

Paper fibers can be reused from four to nine times depending on the paper grade.
You can never know how many time paper has been reused.

For best results and full protection of your goods, we recommend virgin paper.
We offer only the best products, and all our boxes are made of virgin paper because it’s

  • Way more durable
  • Better Resistant to humidity
  • More Strength
  • Longer lasting

Pulp Mills (Virgin)

Pulp Mills make pulp, a mixture of cellulose fibers and water used as the basis of all paper products. Pulp is made in several ways, depending on the type of paper being produced. Wood chips, which come from logs or from residues from sawmills, furniture manufacturers and other sources, can be chemically or mechanically separated into individual wood fibers in a process called pulping.

In chemical pulping, the most common pulping process in the United States, wood chips are “cooked??? in a digester at an elevated pressure with an appropriate solution of chemicals to dissolve the lignin (the “glue??? that binds the fibers in the wood) and allow the cellulose fiber bundles in the wood to separate into individual cellulose fibers. Since chemical processing is gentle on the cellulose fiber, chemical pulps tend to have longer fibers and make strong paper such as printing and writing papers and paperboard.

In mechanical pulping, chemicals are not used to remove the lignin in the wood chips. Instead,wood chips are pressed against a grinder that physically separates the fibers. Mechanical pulps have shorter fiber lengths and produce papers which do not require as much strength, such as newsprint. After the fibers have been separated, the mill washes and decontaminates the pulp. To produce a white paper product, the mill must bleach the pulp to remove color associated with remaining residual lignin. Typically, the bleaching chemicals (such as chlorine dioxide, oxygen, or hydrogen peroxide) are injected into the pulp and the resulting mixture is washed with water.

The bleached or unbleached wood pulp, which at this point is very dilute slurry, is pumped out of a headbox onto a wire screen felt that allows water to drain out of the pulp and help the fibers interlock into a sheet. By varying the amount of pulp pumped onto the wire, the speed of the wire different qualities and properties of paper can be achieved. The continuous sheet then pass through a long series of rollers that press out any remaining moisture, followed by steam-heated drums that dry the paper. Finally, a process called calendaring polishes the sheets and smoothes out wrinkles. The continuous sheet of paper is wound onto jumbo rolls and then cut to a variety of paper widths.

Recycled Paper Processing Mills

Recycled paper processing mills use paper as their feedstock. The recovered paper is combined with water in a large vessel called a pulper that acts like a blender to separate fibers in the paper sheets from each other. The resultant slurry then passes through screens and other separation processes to remove contaminants such as ink, clays, dirt, plastic and metals. The amount of contaminants that are acceptable in the pulp depend upon the type of paper being produced. Mechanical separation equipment includes coarse and fine screens, centrifugal cleaners, and dispersion or kneading units that break apart ink particles. De-inking processes use special systems aided by soaps or surfactants to wash or float ink and other particles away from the fiber.

Recovered fiber can be used to produce new paper products made entirely of recovered fiber (i.e. 100 percent recycled content) or from a blend of recovered and virgin fiber. Fiber cannot, however, be recycled endlessly. It is generally accepted that a fiber can be used five to seven times before it becomes too short (as a result of repulping and other handling) to be useable in new paper products. Recovered paper with long cellulose fibers (such as office paper) has the greatest flexibility for recycling as it can be used to produce new paper products that use either long or short fibers. Recovered paper with short cellulose fibers (such as newspaper) can only be recycled into other products that use short cellulose fibers. For this reason, recovered paper with long fibers is generally of higher value than recovered paper with short fiber.

Pros and Cons of Virgin vs. Recycled in Corrugated Containers

Most mediums are recycled, making a single wall sheet about 33% recycled and double wall sheet 40% recycled, All corrugated sold in North American has recovered fiber in its construction.

To make an informed and strategic decision it is necessary to examine the life cycle of a paper product and evaluate starting at the fiber source through the manufacturing process to product use. Paper fibers can be reused from four to nine times, depending on the paper grade. Or put another way the fiber lost from using recovered paper varies from 10 to 30 percent depending on the type of paper that is being made (an egg carton versus a glossy magazine). Factors that determine how many times fibers can be reused for each paper type include the ability of the collection system to recover paper, losses from the de-inking process and the decline in fiber strength with each use. In many cases, these losses result in poorer performance in paper because the fiber length becomes so short they do not interlock well and result in poor performance. Virgin stock never has this problem because the entire fiber is used in tacked and generally outperforms recycled paper in bother burst strength and Edge-Crush (ECT).

The fact about recycled paper made in many North American mills is the lack of sorting out of contaminates (Stickies). Sorting out these stickies is very expensive and is typically where recycled paper makers take short cuts. The lack of control here causes problems in making the combined corrugated board, conversion into finished boxes and ultimately the final user. Stickies such as plastics, waxes, glue (book binder)… gelatinize under high temperatures and works it way through the refining process and as the pulp gets pumped onto the wire and the water begins to reduce due to heat and drainage, these stickies create a moisture barrier that prevents optimal absorption. Once the paper passes through the Calendar Stack (Giant Iron) of the paper machine, it creates a film of which causes a multitude of issues with absorption of corn starch, inks and glues in the construction and conversion corrugated products.

Many end users of recycle paper products complain of faded print, labels and tape not sticking, warping, porosity with suction cups and complete package failure in high humid environments.


Most businesses today have a vested interest in minimizing their environmental impact, whether to lower operating costs, improve brand reputation or out of a sense of corporate social responsibility. Is the corrugating industry, “going green???" often focuses on building an effective environmental strategy around forest-based resources such as corrugated products. A key consideration in developing and implementing this strategy is the paper decision, and often the decision is framed as a choice between corrugated paper with recycled content and corrugated paper made with virgin fiber. Both methods, if performed responsibly, are environmentally necessary and good for the earth.

Forest Management

Most paper companies in North America and Europe practice sustainable forest management on their lands or have systems in place for responsible fiber sourcing. The forest products industry has a strong economic incentive to keep land forested but to be certain virgin fiber is sourced responsibly, selecting fiber from credible, certified forest management systems is an effective strategy for magazine publishers to be. To avoid contributing to deforestation or illegal logging, paper buyers should require that any paper containing virgin fiber be sourced from forests that have been managed for sustainability through credible certification systems such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Programme for Environmental Forest Certification (PEFC) and others that are actively evaluating, labeling and communicating the availability of fiber from. IC Industries purchases 100% of our paper from suppliers that are SFI accredited.