What Is Kraft Paper?
First and foremost, Kraft paper is made from wood, just like most other paper types. The term "Kraft" describes the process of turning wood into wood pulp, essentially by pressure-cooking softwood chips in a mixture of strong alkaline chemicals.
These chemicals, notably sodium hydroxide and sodium sulphide, separate the cellulose (which is useful) and lignin (not so useful) that make up the wood fibres. Think about when you make instant noodles, at first the noodles are hard and packed tightly together, just like the wood. As you apply hot water, the noodles become soft and separate, that's kind of what happens here but on a microscopic level.
This kraft paper slurry is then refined, washed and formed through huge pressurised rollers.
As the kraft paper gets drawn out and dried, it is stored into colossal rolls, ready for cutting down. At this point, we have a light-brown cellulose pulp with interlocking fibres, otherwise known as brown kraft paper.
What Is Kraft Paper Used For?
Kraft's heavy-duty nature and high tear resistance make it ideal for when you need strong and sturdy paper. You’ll see kraft being used everywhere as greeting cards, invitations, flyers... really any stationery you could think of.
Kraft is generally more utilitarian than white and coloured papers, mainly because it’s structurally stronger. This is because it hasn’t been bleached extensively, which actually weakens the structure of the white paper stock.
Kraft also tends to be cheaper and tougher than other paper types. The production process itself is generally more sustainable too than the one used to create a bleached white paper. Kraft’s natural earthy look also gives it a kind of rustic, bohemian appeal that many people actually prefer – while innovative print techniques can create finished stationery on brown kraft that looks every bit as good as coloured or bleached white paper.
Is Kraft Paper Recyclable?
Yes, Kraft paper is 100% recyclable. While Kraft paper can be made from 100% recycled kraft paper, it has to be made from wood to begin with. This wood can be reclaimed though, so technically, Kraft paper can be recycled right from the get-go. The process to recycle Kraft paper back into new sheets is very similar to the process mentioned at the beginning of this blog, but less harsh and uses fewer chemicals.
What Is The Difference Between Recycled Paper & Kraft Paper?
Kraft and recycled paper can often be one and the same thing. As we've mentioned, Kraft paper can be made with 100% recycled kraft paper. So it is actually recycled paper. To learn the difference between recycled and Kraft paper we first need to answer how paper is made from recycled paper.
First, the waste paper being recycled is dumped and stacked in giant mounds, which is then sorted into its various grades and types. This waste material could range from luxury office stationery and glossy magazine papers to cheap card and newspaper stock, and every kind of printed item in between.
This waste paper material is soaked and churned in vats of soapy water, and separated from any unwanted inks, metals and adhesives it might contain. It is then bleached white so that the slurry will create fresh-looking white paper. This is really the biggest difference since the bleach actually breaks down the paper fibres and weakens them. This is why the paper is white and the kraft paper is brown.
The resulting slurry is then dried, stretched and flattened through a series of large heated rollers, reforming the pulp into useable paper made with recycled paper.
Getting The Most Out Of Kraft & Recycled Paper
As well as being more sustainable to produce, kraft and recycled papers can give you some fantastic finished stationery when they’re combined with the right printing techniques. Kraft pairs especially well with vivid black text and solid-black designs, creating extremely sharp finished effects.
While it may not create the same level of contrast as classic black ink on white paper, kraft paper printing gives you something with an altogether different personality: printed items that feel natural, and raw, and real.
As for recycled paper, usually it looks no different to regular uncoated paper stock, albeit with some tiny imperfections that add to its charm. If you're looking to be more eco-conscious, using recycled paper for your business cards or flyers is a great way to keep the same print quality while helping to stop deforestation.