Image of view of trees above from the ground in a forest

Is Recycled Paper Better for the Environment?

As a designer, I hope to make a positive contribution to society with beautiful and well thought out design - for me, this includes the materials that I choose to use to make my products. There is a lot of talk at the moment around sustainability and of course I would like to build a brand that is sustainable that prioritises the planet and people, but sometimes it’s hard to know what is the best way to be sustainable. It is probably unrealistic to think that businesses (and humans) can be perfectly “sustainable” as everything we do leaves a footprint and has an effect on the environment. However, I believe it is necessary and important to do the best that we can with the knowledge and resources we have to make the most sustainable decision in that moment.

So, when designing the paper products you find in the shop, like the stationery, greeting cards and wrapping paper, I made sure I spent some time researching the best materials to use for each product with the resources that I had available at the time. Whilst doing this, the question of whether recycled paper is better came up, so I started researching this topic and thought I’d share some of the information that I found out in this post.

What are the benefits of recycled paper?

From my research, using recycled paper came up as a “greener” option in comparison to using virgin paper (paper that is not recycled). This is because recycled paper:

  • uses less energy, water and produces lower carbon emissions in manufacturing than paper that is not recycled
  • helps to preserve the earth’s forests as the demand for virgin paper is less
  • reduces the amount of waste that ends up in landfill as paper can be recycled up to 5 times

For this reason, where possible, I try to used recycled paper in my printed paper products such as recycled paper greeting cards and the Monstera & Hibiscus A5 recycled paper notebook that is currently in the collection. 

What is the FSC? WHAT ABOUT PAPER THAT ISN’T RECYCLED?

The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an international organisation that dedicates it’s work to protecting the world’s forests and promoting resposible forestry. You may have seen the FSC ‘tick tree’ logo on products when shopping. The FSC promises that when you see this logo on a product, you can be sure that you won’t be harming the world’s forests when buying it. I use FSC certified paper in the printing of the tropical gift wrap, which helps to ensure that I’m doing my bit to help take care of the world’s forests including the wildlife and people that rely on them - and when you buy the gift wrap, you are too! This short film celebrates the beauty of our world’s forests, our connection with them and how it links us with our ancestors.

The great thing about my tropical gift wrap is that it is not only FSC certified, but because I don’t use any foil or glitter, it is also 100% recyclable gift wrap. This means that once it’s been used and enjoyed, it can be recycled and have several new lives as recycled paper! 

Overall, recycled paper does have many benefits for the environment, and although it does have it’s limitations, it’s a good choice to limit the impact we have on the environment. When recycled paper isn’t an option, we also have the choice to buy FSC certified paper products which also helps limit the impact we have on the world’s forest as well as the wildlife and communities that rely on them. Whichever option we choose, when it comes to making sustainable choices, it’s all about being mindful about how much we consume and ensuring that when we buy things we utilise them fully then give them the best life we can. When it comes to the end of their life we can make sure we dispose of them responsibly by recycling to help close the loop.

Sources & Further Reading:

  1. ThoughtCo, Larry West "What Are the Benefits of Paper Recycling?" Read more
  2. Recycled Papers. “Why Use Recycled Papers” Read more
  3. Recycling Guide Find out more
  4. Find out more about the FSC here
  5. Recycled Paper - An Overview Read more
  6. Thumbnail photo by Casey Horner via Unsplash