In addition to using environmentally responsible paper, it is also important to minimize the use of toxic
compounds involved in paper, book, and newspaper production.
There are several different certifications that relate to the
use of chlorine and chlorine compounds during the bleaching
process. Publishers wishing to minimize impacts should ensure
that paper is processed chlorine free (PCF), or if it is 100%
virgin fiber, that it is totally chlorine free (TCF).
It is important to avoid the use of chlorine and chlorine
compounds because their use in bleaching releases a variety of
toxic compounds including dioxins, a known human carcinogen.
Below are descriptions of the various labels relating to the
Bleaching processes listed with most environmentally
- Processed chlorine free (PCF) means that the paper
contains recycled fiber (some of which may have originally
been bleached using chlorine compounds) and was bleached
without the use of chlorine or chlorine compounds.
- Totally chlorine free (TCF) is a label only used for 100%
virgin fiber that was bleached without the use for chlorine or
- Enhanced ECF with ozone or hydrogen peroxide removes more
of the lignin form the wood prior to bleaching, and therefore
requires less energy and chemicals to bleach. Ozone or
hydrogen peroxide replaces chlorine compounds as an initial
brightening agent. The final bleaching process uses chlorine
- Elemental chlorine free with extended or oxygen
delignification (Enhanced ECF) removes more of the lignin form
the wood prior to bleaching. The final bleaching process uses
- Elemental chlorine free (ECF) uses chlorine dioxide in
place of chlorine in the bleaching process
- Bleached using elemental chlorine uses chlorine during the
bleaching process. In the U.S. the use of elemental chlorine
bleaching was phased out in 2001 under the EPA’s cluster rule.
Preference should be given to vegetable based inks with a low
level (<5%) of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Vegetable
based inks utilize corn, walnut, coconut, linseed, canola and
soy-bean oils which are all renewable resources (unlike
petroleum). Vegetable based inks frequently have a lower
percentage of VOCs, which contribute to air and water pollution.
Vegetable based inks also have several other advantages. Compared to petroleum inks, less vegetable ink is needed for
a given print job, it is easier to deink the paper when it is
recycled, and it can result in brighter colors. Just because a
given ink is vegetable or soy based, does not automatically mean
that it is a low VOC ink. Some vegetable based inks contain 25%
It is also important to ensure that the inks do not contain
heavy metals such as mercury, lead or cadmium, which are most
often used in brightly colored inks.
Read more about the benefits of soy based inks in this EPA Study
More information about toxic compounds used in the paper
bleaching process, and in inks is available at the links below.
Environmental Paper Network State of the Industry Report
NRDC –Getting Mercury out of Paper Production
NRDC-Avoiding Chlorine in Paper Bleaching
Read about the toxic impacts of a paper mill on the androscoggin river
EPA study on the benefits of soy based inks