Collecting paper and cardboard

7.5 million tons of paper and cardboard waste are collected and recycled each year in France, a recovery percentage that has gone up in the last two decades from 40 to 72%. Most of it is recycled back into the paper making industry: in 2009, 60% of paper fibres used were from recycled paper. As long-time leader in waste management and a paper recycling specialist, Paprec treats 2 million tons of soon-to-be recycled cellulose fibres (RCF, the new material used in the paper-making industry), and its progress in paper recovery has gone up 29% since 1994, making it one of the biggest recycling companies in Europe. How to recycle paper? Where does it come from? What tools are used to collect paper and transport it to the sorting and recycling facilities? Here they are, step by step:


The printing industry’s enormous amount of paper waste is an inexhaustible mine of recycling material for Paprec. Although the industry’s main type of paper waste comes from the sheets used to calibrate the equipment, Paprec also collects paper trimmings from the post-printing formatting.
But before collecting those last bits of paper, Paprec also collects the different packaging used for the spools, the paper reams, cardboard mandrels, and the paper that these are wrapped in. Due to the variation of the paper’s value according to it’s purity, operatives are tasked to separating the packaging from whiter materials.
The Tools
To optimise the collecting of paper according to the client’s facilities (almost every case is unique), Paprec has many tools at its disposal, depending on the various sizes of the client’s facilities, the volumes of paper generated, and the different types of paper waste encountered.
To properly upcycle, the following equipment is supplied:
In small facilities:

  • Stackable boxes, also called box-pallets, transported by forklift, which enable technicians to drive right up to the presses and collect paper directly. Stackable and practical, especially for companies in or on the outskirts of big towns, who don’t have the space for large waste containers, these paper bins are ideal for replacing the old system of bags carried by the maintenance worker, and thus encouraging the recycling of paper.

In large and medium sized facilities:

  • Regular garbage skips or Tautliner’s (with removable sides for easier loading), with capacities varying from 15 to 30m3, depending on the density of the stored material.
  • Compactors or recycling balers (horizontal or vertical) that can, when volumes are too important, make a product denser before the recovery process, as well reduce transport cost and the frequency of the garbage collection.
  • Semi-trailers, with moving floors or Tautliner’s, that will enable Paprec staff to collect miscellaneous material or bales made by the clients.

Paprec understands that logistical adaptability is a key concept, one that strengthens collaborations and encourages the company’s evolution. Depending on the volume of waste generated by the printer’s factories, the frequency of garbage collection will vary. For example, a Paprec driver will only go to a small factory once a month, collecting only one box. On the other hand, for bigger installations, Paprec will send several trucks, several times a day, collecting up to 4 000 tons of waste every month.
The Technology
Paprec has its own research department, now separated into two entities (Paprec Techniques and Paprec Aspiration), that has created some of the most advanced computer-reporting and automatic collection tools. These technologies have led the Group to great innovations in paper recuperation, and allow the clients to focus on their main tasks.
In addition to these technologies, our partner factories are also supplied with:

  • Vacuuming and conveying systems that are installed on high speed production lines (presses, inserting and folding machines, binders…) to collect and transport the paper to waste stations, before sending them out to the compactors. Thus, the only human intervention is the driver picking up the compacted waste
  • Teleprocessing systems that allow Paprec technicians to remotely monitor the storage capacity of the compactors; an automatic warning signal is sent when the compactor is full. This precious tool optimises the maintenance process, increasing Paprec’s reactivity without monopolising the clients resources and hindering their production. 
Paprec Group, vacuuming system
Paprec Group, selective collection


More and more households are sorting their paper and cardboard waste (a 10% progression rate since 2007), which represents 52% of all paper recycling. Of the 2.3 million tons of printing paper (writing/printing paper, brochures) used each year by French households, Paprec alone collects and recycles over 50 000 tons.
Paper waste is sorted at the source. The future recycling material is disposed in the blue recycling bins, or the yellow ones that also serve for packaging, which are then collected by Paprec or by the group’s various local collaborators, transported by waste collection vehicles to the Paprec facilities that finish sorting the waste (separating paper, cardboard, plastics, etc), and finally baling them up.
In some cases, local communities have their own sorting facilities, for better recycling. They then sell the different materials to Paprec, whose trucks come to collect it. The sorted waste is then entered into the recovery and paper-making process.


In these sectors, the collection process is similar to the set up in the printing industry. Depending on the size of the facility or installation, bins, skips, or compactors are used to collect paper waste. Only the actual type of paper waste varies; with clients such as Carrefour or Auchan, Paprec mainly collects used packing paper and cardboard packaging (in large amounts), also called brown fibres.

Paprec Group, fenwick
Paprec Group, burocity and locked bins


Office paper, along with cardboard, accounts for 85% of waste generated by the tertiary industries. Despite the huge amounts of potential recyclable material, for years this sector has been largely ignored by the recycling industry.
La Corbeille Bleue (the Blue Bin), a specialized branch of Paprec, collects each year 40 000 tons of office paper, archives, and confidential papers, mainly from banks and administration, before turning it into recycled paper.
Once again, the process for collecting and recycling office paper is varied:

  • Two door bins to collect food waste on one side and paper waste on the other, to facilitate future retrieval.


  • Communal recycling bins near posts that generate a lot of paper waste, for example near a copy machine.


  • Paper and cardboard waste collection bins that the maintenance crews can fill and send to the appropriate recycling branches.

Once they have been pre-sorted and stored, the paper is regularly collected by Paprec’s waste collection trucks,  then be transported to the waste treatment facilities.
Confidential documents are collected and processed by a special branch of Paprec: Confidentialys. The paper waste is put into locked bins, transported by truck, and only opened in secure facilities. Most of this waste is used for recovery, but it can also be destroyed as per the client’s wishes, who sometimes also prefer to transport the documents themselves.

Paprec Group, transportation


Trucks (Heavy Goods Vehicles)
Since 1994, Paprec vehicles are supplied by Volvo Trucks, a company ever concerned with efficiency (Volvo trucks have the lowest breakdown ratio on the market) while keeping its environmental impact to a minimum (the chosen trucks are 95% recyclable, and only consume 30L/100km, six times less than a normal car).
With a 25 ton maximum storage capacity, the Paprec trucks (Tautliner semi-trailers or not, capable of loading any type of container, within Guima norms) are increasingly present on French roads as the company gets bigger. The trucks used are of varying power, but the most powerful ones (Volvo FH16 with 750 horse power) are entrusted to the best drivers, holders of a Castors d’Or Award.
Within the Paprec fleet, 1000 trucks are currently GPS-enabled, allowing them to be easily pinpointed and diverted for any emergency demands. All Paprec waste containers are also equipped with tracers, which greatly facilitates the often long and complex journeys (at bigger facilities) of paper waste collection vehicles (as opposed to construction site vehicles, that mostly go from point A to point B).
Every tour of the Paprec Recyclage barge “Spirit of Future” transports the equivalent of 12 trucks, therefore saving up to 1 ton of CO2 emission. The “Spirit of Future” symbolizes Paprec’s will to always keep its gas emission to a minimum.
Water transport is the way of the future. Efficient and environmentally friendly, it should develop in the years to come. Indeed, wherever it is possible, Paprec sets up a network between the paper making factories and France’s rivers and canals.
The paper and cardboard recycling cycle is a step-by-step process. Discover the different steps:

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