Bleaching is a process used in the paper industry to make the wood pulp or recycled paper whiter. Chemicals used include hydrogen peroxide, chlorine and sodium dithionite. When released into the environment, these hazardous substances contaminate water sources and can harm humans, as well as plants and animals. Unbleached recycled paper products, such as toilet paper, napkins, tissues, cups, coffee filters, baking items and stationary, are cream to light brown and a more environmentally friendly alternative to bleached paper products.
The production of recycled toilet paper requires 50 per cent less energy when compared to paper made with virgin wood pulp, which comes from forests across the world. As even recycled paper is bleached to become whiter, a greener option is 100 per cent recycled unbleached toilet paper. Bleached toilet paper can contain traces of formaldehyde, a toxic agent and skin irritant which can cause vulvar irritation in some women.
Napkins, Kitchen Towels and Tissues
In addition to toilet paper, unbleached recycled paper can also become napkins, kitchen towels and tissues. These products are often stronger and do not need to be bright white to use. Another advantage of unbleached recycled products is that they degrade quicker than bleached products after use. Although the label PCF (process chlorine free) indicates that chlorine was not used in the product, it does not exclude the use of other bleaching agents.
Coffee Cups, Filters and Baking Items
Unbleached recycled paper can also be used to make cone-style coffee filters and disposable coffee cups. Unbleached recycled parchment paper is often coated with silicone resins instead of quilon, a most common and cheaper alternative, which contains the heavy metal chromium. Other unbleached recycled paper products used to bake include sheets of baking paper and baking cups.
It is possible to make notebooks, envelopes, printing paper and other stationery items with unbleached recycled paper. Some educational institutions, such as the University of Alaska Anchorage, use unbleached 100 per cent recycled paper in their official stationery, as well as in the staff's business cards. Unbleached recycled paper can also become storage boxes and greeting cards.