Graham Griffiths of Premier Paper Group Ltd writes that paper is quite special because its primary constituent, wood fibre, can, in fact, have several cycles. 

From Trees to Pulp

Virgin wood fibre obviously originates from trees, which are harvested from forests and transported to pulp mills – usually situated close by.

The regulation and certification of these forests is very strict. Minimising environmental impact is paramount.


The production of virgin wood fibre is a complex mechanical and chemical process which is again subject to strict environmental controls.

Virgin pulp can either be supplied as dry sheets or in liquid form in cases where a paper making machine is located on the same site.

On the other hand, recycled pulp is the result of a process starting with the collection of waste paper, which is sorted, de-inked, and chemically ‘cooked’ to leave only the original wood fibre.

Individual wood fibres can be recycled up to 6 times before the fibre structure deteriorates and starts to breaks down.

The more the fibre is recycled the lower the grade of paper that can be produced, ending with tissue and cardboard products

In the UK, DEFRA estimates that 62% of all paper used, is then recycled.



From Pulp to Paper

The wood fibre, whether virgin, recycled, or a combination of both, continues its journey along a paper machine starting as a pulp suspension (98% water) to become a solid (3-5% moisture) via another complex mechanical and chemical process involving the addition of many pigments and binding agents. Modern paper machines are truly awesome leviathans up to 30m wide, over half a kilometre long with a wire (belt) up to 12m wide carrying the fibres travelling at up to1800m per minute. A single machine is capable of making over a half a million tonnes of paper per year.

From Paper to People

After a further process of reeling, cutting and packing, fine paper enters into the world in small sheets, large sheets, small reels and large reels, in various shades of white and all the colours of the rainbow. The route to market can be via paper merchants, contract stationers, and office product companies or direct from the paper mill itself.

Paper then finds its way to people who use it to produce a wide variety of products by putting ink on it; including books, magazines, business documents, advertising brochures and many other creative uses. Paper continues to be one of the most effective, versatile and convenient means of communication.

From People to Pulp

The printed paper is then seen and used by millions of people, but through the conscientiousness of the consumer and the commitment of the paper and pulp industry, at least 62% is recovered by the waste collection process, and so the paper life cycle begins again.


Graham Griffiths is a Liveryman, and also Managing Director of the Premier Paper Group. He has a Masters Degree in Marketing and had worked in the engineering and automotive industries before entering the paper industry in 1986. Since then he has held a number of senior positions with Arjo Wiggins Appleton, and MAP Group before acquiring Beswick Papers in 2005 followed by Premier Paper Group in 2008.

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