What does chlorine-free paper mean and what is the difference between totally chlorine-free (TCF) and elemental chlorine-free (ECF)?
Traditionally chlorine gas has been used to bleach paper. This chlorine gas causes unwanted harmful bi-products known as dioxins. Hence there has been a move away from the use of chlorine gas in the bleaching process. Papers to look for are elemental chlorine-free (ECF) and totally chlorine-free (TCF). ECF papers replace chlorine gas with other less toxic chlorine compounds. This significantly reduces the amount of dioxins. TCF papers have completely replaced all chlorine compounds in the bleaching process. Some papers these days make mention of an AOX rating. Basically this is a measure of the ‘nasties’ formed in the bleaching process. Many regulators around the world consider an AOX level of anywhere between 1.0 and 1.5 kg per tonne of pulp to be produced to be safe for the environment. Chlorine gas bleached stocks produce approx 3.5kg per tonne of pulp. ECF pulp yields about 0.3kg to 0.5kg per tonne of pulp. TCF pulp yields approx 0.1kg which is virtually undetectable.