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Copy paper can be purchased in different white tones. The shades of white are defined by the Commission Internationale de l’Eclairage (CIE) and take values from 55 (recycling-grey) to 171 (most white). See table below.

Will using a less white paper (low CIE value) usually be more sustainable?

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Source: PC Welt

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The short answer: Yes.

The long answer:

White paper is produced by bleaching the dried pulp, whether raw tree product or recycled. The following is reproduced from this site:

To produce a white paper product, the mill must bleach the pulp to remove color associated with remaining residual lignin. Typically, the bleaching chemicals (such as chlorine dioxide, oxygen, or hydrogen peroxide) are injected into the pulp and the resulting mixture is washed with water.

Many believe (source):

Recycled paper can be manufactured relatively easily, with end products competitive in quality to those made from virgin materials.

It is true that recycling degrades the fibers in the paper, new paper will have to be made, but, recycling sure reduces the environmental impact!

However, because of the degradation of the fibers through the papermaking and recycling process, the limit to the amount of paper being recycled is slowly being approached. In addition, there are a number of grades of paper that are currently not recycled and will not be in the foreseeable future.

This research article details the effect of Bleach contents on the environment.

To summarise, recycled paper has the following characteristics:

Pros

  1. Less trees will be cut for paper industry
  2. If less white paper is used, less bleach will be needed and hence less toxins are added to environment
  3. Recycling industry will stay alive and create some jobs in the process

Cons

  1. Consumers may not get premium looking white paper, to throw in the trashcan
  2. Recycled paper may (research needed) degrade faster, and important printed documents may not be safe
  3. (Problem specific to certain countries) personal hygeine papers may not preferably be made with recycled paper, because if the paper is coarse, many consumers will not use it!
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  • Good answer, but I don't get your last point. What exactly do you mean with "may not be made with recycled paper"?
    – THelper
    Jan 8 at 8:08
  • Some articles at this link, mentioned that once the fibre length degrades, the end product becomes gradually coarser. Personal hygeine paper (toilet paper, face wipes) are required to be softer!
    – anurag
    Jan 8 at 8:11
  • 1
    Nevertheless toilet paper made from recycled paper is sold, both in Western and other countries.
    – THelper
    Jan 8 at 8:13
  • If your were referring to my remark Problem specific to Western and west copying countries, I said that because in some countries, culture requires, washing with water and some cleaning agent.
    – anurag
    Jan 8 at 8:14
  • 1
    That's a fair point. Perhaps you can replace your last point with this remark?
    – THelper
    Jan 8 at 8:23

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