We brought together a band of graphical paper fans, designers and educators for a study visit to one of the world’s two facilities for making top quality recycled paper pulp – Arjowiggins Graphic’s Greenfield plant, east of Paris. On day two, we had an in-depth tour of Arjo’s Wizernes paper mill, near the Pas de Calais. One of the participants, design storyteller Leonora Oppenheim, was given special permission to photograph inside the mills, and she published an in-depth writeup for the Great Recovery website, as well as interviews with our host and some of the group on the thinking behind the trip, and what what we learned. Here is a selection of Leonora’s pictures:
The raw material for recycled paper pulp is post-consumer waste paper. Arjo buy mainly good quality white paper office waste, which goes into a hydropulper – something like a huge toploading washing machine, where the paper is broken down under the action of a steel screw (pictured), until it’s a mixture of about 2% paper fibres and 98% water. In the next phase, the pulp slurry goes into a series of three tanks where air bubbles are forced upwards through the mixture, collecting ink, toner and other residues which are skimmed off. In tanks 2 and 3, any red or blue tints are also corrected.
The difference between Greenfield and other recyling plants is that they start with a superior quality waste product, then de-ink it three times, rather than once – which means that the resulting pulp is between 94% and 99% bright white, without bleaching or adding optical brighteners.
This is the pulp wire machine. You can’t see it here, but the slurry is poured onto a wide, moving synthetic mesh (or ‘wire’), which drains the water from the mixture; as it moves through the length of this massive machine, the pulp is progressively dried and compressed. At the end, the pulp is cut and baled ready for sending to the papermaking mill:
Bales of recycled pulp look exactly like bales of virgin fibre pulp made from timber. The environmental benefits of making paper from recyclate rather than timber are really considerable; not only does it reduce water, energy use and CO2 emissions, but it also saves waste paper from becoming landfill. In this picture, Arjo’s Julian Long holds a piece of recycled pulp, torn from a bale:
At the Wizernes paper mill, the pulp is made into new paper. Arjo make a wide range of graphical papers on a single paper machine. The pulp is redissolved and processed in the same way as the pulp; the wet mix (98% water to start with) is poured onto a wire to create a wide web.The weight of the paper is determined purely by the speed of the machine; the type of paper is determined by the pulp mix.
The web of wet pulp is progressively drained, compressed and dried, and the finished paper is wound onto huge reels ready for further processing:
To make coated papers, the reel stock goes through a coating machine, which applies a layer of coating mix (mainly china clay) – another wet-to-dry process. Each side is coated in turn:
As well as uncoated recycled papers like Cyclus Offset, Cocoon 100, cocoon 50 and Cocoon Offset, Arjo make three grades of coated paper at Wizernes – gloss coated (Maine); silk coated, sometimes called satin or demimatte, grades (Satimat Club silk and Cyclus Print); and true matt coated (Chromomat). The coating type depends on the next machine, which passes the coated paper web through a series of differentially rotating cylinders, polishing the surface. The speed of these ‘calendaring’ rollers, and thus the amount of abrasion, is what determines the final coating type:
The large reels are cut to smaller ‘daughter’ reels’ and then either sent out through the paper merchant networks or direct to printing factories as reels for continuous web printing applications, such as magazine production, or cut down to sheets for sheetfed printers like Calverts. This is the daughter reel storage area at Wizernes:
Cut sheet sizes moving on a production line, ready to be pallet or packet wrapped:
Long live paper – an amazing and beautiful communication medium, and one with, we believe, a truly sustainable future. The serious purpose of our visit – and the reason we’re posting this in the design section of Calverts site – is that we want surface and 2D graphic designers to really understand and appreciate the materials and objects they’re designing for, as well as the huge investment in recycling technology being made by companies like Arjo, to ensure that sustainable future for paper and for print.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t appreciate the top-notch champagne and general all-round hospitality provided by our hosts, Angie de Vorchik and Julian Long from Arjowiggins Graphic. Thank you to them, and thank you to the designers who came – Leonora, Jimmy Edmondson from UHC, Tara Hanrahan from ThinkDo/LCC and Fiona Davidson from UCL Communications. We look forward to next time.