Frequently Asked Questions
Information on Sludge from Paper Recycling
The amount and nature of deinking sludge generated at a particular recycling facility is directly related to the type of waste paper consumed by the mill. Contaminants are present in wastepaper and do become part of the sludge.
In addition to obvious trash (staples, paper clips, etc), during the waste paper recycling process all non-cellulose materials are removed from the fiber. This includes inks, dyes, adhesives, coatings, foil, and fillers such as clay and calcium carbonate. While the volume and composition of sludge can pose disposal challenges, the consensus among the environmental community is that the benefits of recycling far outweigh sludge disposal concerns.
Deinking sludge is most commonly dewatered and then landfilled. Sludge with high clay content may be beneficially used as liner and capping material for landfills. Some sludge is high in nutrients and minerals and, when meeting stringent testing requirements, may be used as a soil conditioner on farm or forest land. Some facilities burn sludge as fuel within specialized industrial boilers and the ash may be landfilled or used as aggregate in concrete or cement. However, in some cases the concentration of heavy metals in the resulting ash may warrant special handling practices.
The recent State of the Paper Industry Report published by the Environmental Paper Network provides a good overview of the paper industry and associated environmental parameters. It notes that "Solid waste from pulp and paper manufacturing is dwarfed by the lifecycle contribution of paper to solid waste, when paper is disposed of in landfills and incinerators instead of being recycled."
The environmental organization Conservatree reviews some of the concerns over deinking and describes some of the environmental benefits of paper recycling: Buying Recycled Paper
If you have any questions regarding Green Initiatives, please send them to Jeff Peterson, executive eirector of the FSEA.