Recycled or Certified Paper which is Best?

How much paper do you use in your office or at home? My guess is that despite your best efforts to cut down on how much you print you still get through more than you’d like. Many people feel guilty about using too much paper as it is produced from wood pulp and ultimately from trees. Which, as we all know, are being cut down at an alarming speed around the world.

However, not all paper is the same and whilst we always advocate being careful not to waste paper, if you buy the right type you need not worry if you hit the print button in error occasionally! The key is to choose one the different types of sustainable papers available on the market.

Sustainable Paper- The Options

Recycled Paper

Recycled paper is manufactured from a percentage of reclaimed waste/pre-used paper. This can be from the paper production process or from consumer waste such as the paper recycling bin you may have in the corner of your office. The recycled material is mixed with virgin pulp to create the finished product.

Recycled Paper

The amount of recycled product within a paper sold as recycled varies hugely. In fact, as there is no regulation around this industry, some unscrupulous producers may even label their paper as recycled when it contains no recycled paper at all. This practice is rare but to ensure you are purchasing a quality paper with high a percentage of recycled material make sure you are buying from a quality office supplies dealer. They should be able to provide details of where the product is produced and the type of material used to create it.

Certified Paper

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) was founded in 1990 by a range of individuals and organisations linked to the paper industry. Their aim is to promote an environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable means of managing forests worldwide. You can view their website by clicking here and see all the work they do but we’ll try and outline the key points below;

Buy with Confidence - Where you see the FSC label it means the trees used to produce the product are replaced and allowed to regenerate naturally.

Protection of Rare Species - Large parts of many FSC certified forests are completely protected and no tree harvesting is allowed. This is done to protect rare plants and animals living in those areas. The FSC certification is recognised and approved by the WWF, Woodland Trust and Greenpeace.

Protection of Indigenous People - FSC ensures that indigenous people living in the forests are protected and that future generations will be able to enjoy the forests in years to come.

Traceability - All wood used that is FSC certified can be traced from tree to store with every link between those two points being documented to ensure best practices are followed.

The FSC has three types of certified paper that you can choose from;

FSC Pure - 100% of the material used to produce the paper is derived from FSC certified and managed forests.

FSC Recycled - This means that at least 85% of the material used is from post-consumer sources with a maximum of 15% coming from post-industrial sources.

FSC Mixed - This combines FSC pure, recycled and controlled fibre which is material not derived from an FSC managed source. Controlled fibre meets strict FSC guidelines are followed during the manufacturer of the product.

Which is Best, Recycled or Certified?

This is up for some debate. On the face of it using recycled paper may seem the best option, however the power used and the waste products created to successfully recycle paper can outweigh the benefits. Also, as we’ve covered above, you need to be very careful when buying recycled to ensure the paper uses a high proportion of recycled material.

FSC certification guarantees that a paper is from a well managed source where trees are replaced when harvested. It also ensures that human, animal and plant life that rely on the forest are protected for future generations. The price for FSC certified paper may be more that your standard office copier but you need to ask yourself if saving 30p a ream is worth the destruction of the world’s forests.


Carl Barton is a director of Office Allsorts who has worked in the office products industry for 15 years.

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