Avoid Chlorine Bleached Paper

Chlorine bleaching is a method used in some production processes to give paper a stark white colour. By-productions of chlorine bleaching, however, have a known negative effect on the environment when they are left to accumulate. Do your business documents use paper that’s been chlorine bleached? If so, switch to paper that’s been oxygen bleached or not bleached at all.

If you must use bleached paper:

  • Only ever buy oxygen bleached paper.
  • Never buy chlorine bleached paper.

The US Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) provides the following detailed explanations of paper bleaching processes:¹

  • Totally chlorine-free (TCF): Virgin paper produced without chlorine or chlorine derivatives (the bleaching process uses oxygen-based compounds).
  • Processed chlorine-free (PCF): Contains recycled content produced without elemental chlorine or chlorine derivatives, although one or more fiber components may have originally been bleached with chlorine or chlorine derivatives. Any virgin pulp is TCF.
  • Elemental chlorine-free (Traditional ECF): Replaces elemental chlorine with chlorine dioxide in the bleaching process.
  • ECF with extended or oxygen delignification (Enhanced ECF): Removes more of the lignin from the wood before bleaching, thus reducing energy and chemical use during bleaching (the final stage uses chlorine dioxide).
  • Enhanced ECF with ozone or hydrogen peroxide: In addition to removing more of the lignin from the wood before bleaching, substitutes ozone or hydrogen peroxide for chlorine or chlorine dioxides as a brightening agent in the initial stages of the bleaching process (the final or near-final stage uses chlorine dioxide).

NRDC’s order of preference for bleaching processes, on the basis of environmental criteria, is as follows:¹

  • Processed chlorine-free – preferable to totally chlorine-free because product includes recycled content; TCF is used only to refer to 100 percent virgin paper).
  • Totally chlorine free
  • Enhanced elemental chlorine-free with ozone or hydrogen peroxide.
  • Enhanced elemental chlorine-free with extended or oxygen delignification.
  • Traditional elemental chlorine-free.


¹ Natural Resources Defense Council

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