Sorting paper and cardboard

As French leader in the recycling industry, and Europe wide paper and cardboard upcycling specialist, Paprec annually sells 800 000 tons of paper to its clients in France, 800 000 tons to its clients around Europe (UK, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Spain) and 400 000 tons to Asian industrial in China, Korea, India, and Indonesia. Paprec works hard to supply high quality products, to satisfy the clients needs, and live up to a now international reputation. In order to do all of this, the company uses, and has mastered, innovative and cutting-edge waste sorting technologies, wielded by equally performing employees, who have become true paper recycling wizards. Whether the paper comes from selective sorting, factories, tertiary sector professionals, pre-sorted or as-is, it comes in varied forms. Split into three main categories (the high quality paper whose whiteness determines its purity, the medium quality paper, and the low quality paper which is mainly cardboard packaging), paper types are also ranked by quality within those three categories. To better understand the differences between types of paper, how to recycle them, and to better judge Paprec’s expertise in the matter, let us take a look at the different process involved:


Secondary Sector and Retail
To optimise its work with printers, industrials, and large retail, Paprec supplies innovative vacuuming systems, sorting bins, and even sometimes (for example the printers of French newspapers Le Parisien, Le Monde, or Le Figaro) recycling balers that are capable of pre-sorting or completely sorting recyclable waste, thus avoiding mixing up the products and slowing down the whole process.
In these cases, merchandise can only be approved after rigorous quality control conducted by Paprec operators and/or technicians (and according to strict purity and humidity regulations). Sometimes, within the paper recycling process, upcycling steps can be added to the pre-sorting process, where the Paprec employees try to weed out elements that could corrupt the products quality, such as ink, glue, or the so called ‘playing card’ paper (tarred and non-recyclable).
Selective Collecting
Paper and cardboard now account for 25% of the total waste generated by the French inhabitants (353kg/year/inhabitant), who recycle, on average and depending on their geographical origins, 64kg (for rural populations) and 28kg (for urban populations) of matter each year. Though not yet ideal, individual recycling has steadily increased in quantity and quality over recent years, thanks to a general increase in environmental awareness (to which Paprec contributes daily) and the gradual implementation of incentive fees.
Selective sorting of paper and cardboard, based on the different communities’ guidelines and conditioned by the resources they choose to supply (which are generally the same all over), is a crucial step for the optimisation of the upcycling process and the performance of Paprec’s other recycling branches. A few changes, especially in terms of eco-friendly packaging, could help recycling in France to progress.
The flow of paper waste, transported straight to the sorting facilities after having been disposed of (generally) in the blue and yellow garbage bins, is distinct but parallel to the flow of raw household waste.
The Tertiary Sector (Office waste)
For smoother collection and sorting processes of the waste generated by tertiary sector enterprises (85% of which is paper and cardboard, mainly from the banking and administrative areas), one of Paprec’s special branches, the Corbeille Bleue (Blue Bins), supplies partner companies with double compartmented rubbish bins that allow you to sort paper waste and other (food) waste, voluntary drop-off containers, and specifically appointed bins used by the maintenance crews. Once these containers are full, Paprec collects them all together.

Paprec Group, sorting paper


Depending on the location, clientele, and types of materiel received, Paprec’s various paper and cardboard sorting facilities function differently. For better understanding of their inner working, let us take a look at some of the different areas of expertise:
Products from the secondary sector and large retailing:
Factories working exclusively with industrial waste and paper from printing presses handle dozens of different quality materials daily, applying to each type the proper inspection and sorting process. Here are some examples of the future raw material received:

  • AFNOR 7 paper, good quality paper used by many printers.
  • AFNOR 7 Glued, that is covered with a layer of glue for binding documents.
  • AFNOR 7 light, dark, or uncoated.
  • Newspaper trimmings, ground or bound, sent out to recycling facilities that specialize in construction materials, for insulation.
  • Leftovers and trimmings from the formatting and cutting of printed documents.
  • Brochure paper, high and low quality.
  • Listing paper, though rarer today, is used by large department stores such as Carrefour for their balance sheets.
  • Extra-PAL, or ‘light’, white paper polluted by little ink stains.
  • ‘Light glued’ paper.
  • “Blanc journal” and “Blanc Nantes”, white paper obtained when Paprec employees mix two types of white paper, 1 and 2 (2 types of more or less white paper).
  • White printed paper from printers, mainly.
  • Colour printed paper, all types of paper used for archives: cardboard folders binders, and other files that can only be properly recycled once they have been rid of all plastic and metallic parts. These parts are manually removed and sent to other recycling branches.
  • Miscellaneous mixes of paper and cardboard, usually from stores.
  • Posters.
  • Post-it’s (3M works with Paprec, the IDF Nord site is the only one that recycles this kind of material).
  • A5 cardboard, the best cardboard available, as well as A4 cardboard, of slightly inferior quality.
  • White ‘wood’, cardboard material commonly used for packaging perfumes.
  • Mandrels, the hollow cardboard tubes found in print rollers.

These different factories do not have, and do not need, sorting facilities. The new material is dumped onto the factory floor where skilled operatives identify the different paper grades, before dispatching them to the appropriate crates (also called cells). If the product has gone through the proper sorting by the client, the container is emptied straight into the appropriate cell.
Sorted and recovered, the material is put on a conveyor belt heading for a baler for their final packaging. During this process, the worker in charge of stocking the conveyor belt, the baler supervisor, and the designated technician in charge of loading the bales, each perform one last quality control.
Selectively Sorted Waste
Some facilities mainly treat waste coming from selectively collected sources. In this case, a state-of-the-art factory line detects the shape, weight, and size of the hand-sorted elements travelling on its 90 belts, separates hollow elements (mainly plastics and metal) from flat elements (paper/cardboard), then sends them to one of 8 optical sorting systems. These will divide them up again, focusing on resins and colours (plastic flasks, printing paper, packaging, etc).
The staff working on these lines (sometimes called ‘over-sorters’) oversee the whole process and their goal is to obtain the highest quality product, rather than simply sorting waste.
Other than plastics and metals, the different qualities the material is sorted into are as follows:

  • deinked paper (newspaper, magazines, printing paper)
  • gross store paper, mainly kraft or windowed envelopes, coloured paper, or postcards.
  • Brown corrugated cardboard, with no printing.
  • Non corrugated cardboard, often with print.
  • food brick packaging (ELA, Tetrabrick, 5.03, or complex paper cardboard)
  • ‘Fibrous’ paper (packaging from the paper industry) represent 60% of processed material, consisting of more paper than cardboard, the use of the first having increased while the latter decreased.

Office Waste
Every day, the Corbeille Bleue’s factories process (and empty the archives) the paper and cardboard collected from the offices in the tertiary sector. When the waste has not been sorted at the source, a special factory line is used to sort the paper and other waste (plastic packages, bottles and other drinks, food waste) that are collected from the general rubbish bins.
When the waste has been sorted at the source, the Paprec staff have only to separate the paper from the cardboard, then to check the conformity of the collected merchandise.
The Confidentialys branch destroys or recycles the client’s confidential documents in a secure site.
The paper and cardboard recycling cycle is a step-by-step process. Discover the different steps:

Paprec Group, sorts paper color

Ask our Experts

In order for us to provide you with the most complete answer to your questions, please fill in all parts of the form below.

* Required field

In compliance with the stipulations of the Law of January 6, 1978, referred to as the "Law on Information Technology and Civil Liberties," you have the right at any time to access, modify, correct and delete your personal data. This right may be exercised by contacting us at the following address: Paprec Group, Département Communication, 7 rue Pascal 93126 La Courneuve Cedex - France