Digital printers these days are being pressured to “go green,” which typically starts with adding PCW (postconsumer waste) content into paper. But is PCW really all that it’s cracked up to be?
I recently did some investigating into this question and got some surprising answers. In fact, there is a legitimate argument for the fact that PCW might have a less positive impact the environment than preconsumer waste.
Postconsumer waste is only one of three waste streams for unused paper. There is also mill broke (scrap collected at the mill and recycled back into the same type of paper from whence it came); and there is pre-consumer waste (paper trimmings and other scrap collected at the printing or converting site and recycled back to the mill before reaching the hands of the consumer).
So here’s what I’m wondering. Both mill broke and pre-consumer waste are recycled back much earlier in the process, so they require less energy to transport. They also need less processing in most cases because they have not yet been printed, glued, laminated or otherwise converted. Post-consumer waste, on the other hand, has to be collected from millions of individual homes and businesses around the country. Then it has to be sorted and processed, and sometimes even bleached. The energy and processing requirements are far greater. So why is post-consumer waste considered greener?