Each time paper is recycled, the structural fibers within it are shortened; thus it can only be recycled five or six times before the fiber’s too short to be useful. Still, we call can and should recycle paper, as it’s one of the easier materials to recycle.
Which does not mean it’s easy. In this video running down the process, you’ll be staggered by the amount of water, chemicals, machines, robots and sheer energy required to turn old paper into new paper. The sorting steps alone would make me think the process is unviable:
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So why go through all of that? Obviously to save trees, but also because turning trees into fresh paper is even more resource intensive. It’s hard to believe, but that entire process we just watched yields an energy savings of about 31% and uses roughly half the amount of water, versus making fresh paper, according to the nonprofit ecological association Green America. It’s incredible that paper costs as little as it does.