FSC vs Recycled – All You Need To Know

Alpha Card 13-07-2017

Here at Alpha Card, one of the most common questions we’re asked is the difference between our standard FSC certified paper and our recycled paper options.

What does FSC mean? Is recycled always better for the environment? What’s the price difference, and how will this choice affect my product and organisation?


Why Care?

Each year, over 30 million acres of forest are destroyed, and 40% of the world’s commercially cut timber is used to produce paper. This would suggest that over 12 million acres of forest are destroyed annually as a direct result of paper production.

Taking corporate responsibility to help lower this figure is an essential for any company concerned about their environmental responsibility. Both options are more environmentally friendly than virgin paper sourced from uncertified timber, but which option is the best for your business?


What is the FSC?

The FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an organisation dedicated to the protection of forests worldwide. Their standards (the highest of any forestry commission) have been developed to protect forests’ biodiversity and their ecological processes. Several major environmental charities endorse them, such as The Woodland Trust, Greenpeace, and the WWF.

Their standards ensure:

  • Trees used are either replaced, or allowed to regenerate naturally.
  • Certain parts of forests are protected entirely
  • Rights of indigenous people are respected. This includes the protection of certain sacred sites and trees.
  • Forest owners must employ local workers and provide all the necessary training, safety equipment, and a decent wage.
  • Products are recognised as being environmentally responsible, thanks to the FSC brand.

By getting FSC-certified paper, you’re ensuring that you’re doing your part to look after the world’s forests, along with the many species and communities that they support. Although new trees are being used, it is guaranteed that they will not be contributing towards global deforestation. In the UK alone, over 1.6 million hectares of forest are protected.


What is recycled paper?

Recycled paper is simply paper made from other, pre-used paper. The whole recycling process is much more complicated and has more environmental implications than many people may expect.

Recycling paper ensures:

  • Trees are saved – As no trees are felled, responsible sourcing is no concern.
  • Landfill space is conserved – It is only the by-products of recycling which will end up in recycling, meaning space is saved.
  • Less pollution – One tonne of virgin paper is estimated to use 253 gallons of petrol. Recycling cuts down on this figure.
  • Eco-friendly recognition – Recycled paper is universally recognised as being environmentally friendly.
  • Jobs are created –  Workers are needed to sort all the waste paper.


How is it recycled?

The recycling process is generally separated into 6 steps:

Step 1 – Waste paper is collected from recycling bins.

Step 2 – This paper is then sorted into different grades.

Step 3 – The paper is heated with water and various chemicals in order to break down the fibres. The created mixture is called slurry.

Step 4 – The mixture is pressed through a screen to remove adhesives and other contaminants.

Step 5 – The slurry will then be spun to remove the water and ink, and then be sprayed onto a conveyor belt. Here, the fibres will start bonding.

Step 6 – Heated metal rollers will then dry the paper, after which it will be cut into shape and redistributed.


This process does, however, have some drawbacks:

  • Toxic chemicals are used in order to bleach and clean the paper. These will leave mills through water supplies.
  • The production process uses more fossil fuels than producing virgin paper.
  • Some paper is printed on using plastic polymers and inks with heavy metals. These require more caustic chemicals to remove.
  • Solid waste will either be put into landfill or incinerated. This will pollute land and/or the atmosphere.
  • Recycling paper is more expensive than producing FSC certified virgin paper.



In conclusion, both paper stocks have their advantages and disadvantages. Whether the paper is recycled or FSC certified, it is guaranteed not to contribute towards deforestation and to take the necessary environmental responsibility.

Whilst both options are a huge leap from uncertified paper, the definitive best choice may not be black and white.

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