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How High-yield Paper Works


High-yield Paper Production
Before paper winds up as a random printout on your desk or wound around one of these giant rolls, it has to go through an extensive production process.
Before paper winds up as a random printout on your desk or wound around one of these giant rolls, it has to go through an extensive production process.
Kim Steele/Getty Images

High-yield paper uses 90 percent of a tree. That's a significant improvement over most digital printing papers, which often use only 45 percent of a tree [source: DM News]. Xerox achieved this dramatic boost in efficiency by using the wood's lignin, a dark-colored material that is removed from other types of paper.

In traditional paper production, wood fibers are separated in a chemical-rich solution. The white cellulose is then used to make the paper, and the rest of the wood (including the lignin) is burned for energy. But that method is inefficient, as less than half of the wood becomes paper [source: Xerox]. So with high-yield paper -- the term "high yield" comes from the fact that most of the tree is used -- the wood is mechanically ground into pulp.

High-yield paper production begins with the pulping process, where wood chips are poured into big grinders. These machines grind up the wood, freeing up wood fibers, but nothing is removed at this point. The pulpy wood is then mixed with a liquid. After that, the mixture is literally sprayed onto a conveyor belt. It's on this conveyor belt where the sprayed-on paper dries before being cut. No chemicals are used to bleach the paper to a brighter white.

To minimize the creation of dust from errant paper fibers, the paper's surface is treated at the mill. Dust buildup also can harm a printer, so the lack of dust may cut down on future repairs.

The use of mechanical pulping also means that less energy, water and chemicals are used in the production process, adding to the paper's green credentials. Relying on hydroelectric power to run the manufacturing plant cuts emissions by 75 percent, Xerox claims [source: The Paper Planet].

Now let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of high-yield paper.