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How does an Align grade, made with mechanical pulp, use up to 50% less wood fiber than traditional offset (uncoated freesheet)?

Traditional offset paper (uncoated freesheet) is made from kraft pulp, which uses a chemical pulping process that refines the wood fibers using a chemical and water solution. What’s left is called cellulose – and represents only about 45% of the original wood fiber. What’s removed from the cellulose is lignin, an organic polymer, or “glue,” that holds the wood fibers together. The papers in the Align brand, on the other hand, are made using a mechanical pulping process: Thermo-mechanical pulping (TMP).

In the TMP process, wood fibers are actually ground down using a combination of mechanical grinding and heat, but the lignin is retained in the pulp along with cellulose. The mechanical pulping process maintains 90% of the wood fiber. This lignin becomes the ingredient that gives mechanical pulp two key attributes: higher opacity and greater bulk. And, because the lignin is retained in the sheet, thermo-mechanical pulp-based papers need only 50% of the wood fiber of uncoated freesheet.+^

+Smook, Gary A. Handbook for Pulp & Paper Technologists. Vancouver; Angus Wilde Publications, 1992.

^Scott, William E., Abbott, James C., & Trossett, Stanley. Properties of Paper: An Introduction. Atlanta; TAPPI Press.

How can the opacity and bulk of Align papers help save money?

Opacity is the degree of non-transparency of a paper, or how “see-through” it appears. Obviously, it’s not good if you can read through to the other side of a printed sheet of paper, so it is desirable to have higher opacity. Bulk, also known as caliper, describes the thickness of a sheet. In printing you typically want the paper to feel substantial, which is what Align’s significant bulk provides.

Because Align papers are made with mechanical pulp, they offer higher opacity and bulk than traditional offset (freesheet) at the same basis weight. For example, a 50 lb sheet of an Align grade paper is bulkier and more opaque than a 50 lb sheet of traditional offset, so you could confidently reduce paper basis weight to a 45 lb Align grade paper and still get the caliper and bulk of a 50 lb sheet of traditional offset. Since paper is sold by weight, you won’t need to buy as much of a lighter weight Align paper by weight to get the same number of impressions (square feet).

Use our paper savings calculator in the Benefits section of our website to figure out how much you can save.

I thought a paper had to have recycled content in order to be environmentally friendly. Is this true?

Recycled content in paper products is widely touted in today’s marketplace as a signal that the product is “environmentally friendly.” However, the use of recovered fiber in paper does not necessarily guarantee that the paper will use less wood fiber than a virgin paper. Let’s compare an uncoated freesheet 50-lb grade containing 30% recycled content to a 50-lb Align grade made with thermo-mechanical pulp and containing NO recycled content. The virgin Align grade uses less wood fiber than the freesheet with recycled content. Furthermore, the use of recovered fiber in paper does not guarantee that the paper will have a lower carbon footprint, either. So don’t miss the forest for the trees.

So when should a mill use recovered fiber? If the fiber is available close to the manufacturing facility, and can be made into acceptable quality product without excessive yield loss, then it makes sense to use recovered fiber. In North America, all recovered fiber is already used, so specifying recycled content in a product only “steals” it from another user. Recovered fiber should always be “downcycled” rather than “upcycled”; i.e. we should not put a low quality fiber (with low brightness and a lot of ink and sticky material) into a high quality product (such as a bright white printing paper). This is called upcycling, which results in a lower yield, more chemical use, more energy, more solid waste and overall more negative effect on the environment, thus defeating the original intention of reducing the environmental footprint by using recycled content.

How can I get samples of Align papers?

Fill out our Request Sample Paper Kit form or email us at

What does chain of custody certified mean?

Chain of custody certification is a third-party confirmation that the Company has the systems and controls necessary to track the source of certified fiber in its products.

At Resolute, we have implemented fiber tracking systems at all our mills to ensure that our wood fiber supply comes from acceptable sources, such as certified forests and legal harvesting operations.

Mills producing Align grades use one or more of the following internationally recognized third-party-audited chain of custody systems:

  • Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification® schemes (PEFC) Annex 4 Standard
  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) Chain of Custody Standard
  • Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) Chain of Custody Standard

We encourage our external and private wood fiber suppliers to practice sustainable forestry, follow best management practices and certify their fiber, as appropriate.

For details on where our certifications are held, and for electronic copies of certificates, visit Certification by Operation.