A critical review on waste paper sorting techniques


Efficient waste paper recycling has a significant role in the sustainable environment. Recyclable waste paper as a fundamental ingredient of municipal solid wastes (MSWs) is indeed an “urban ore”. Waste papers are considered as the solid recovered fuel which is recovered from MSW. Recyclable waste papers are segregated into various grades to produce high-quality products. Moreover, sorted paper streams save energy, chemicals, and water, as well as reduce sludge and rejects. Information technology is widely integrated with the waste management industry into its operations such as recycling, reuse, segregating based on categories and so on. This review article focuses on the life cycle of waste paper and existing waste paper sorting techniques. In the paper industry, many types of sensors are used in different mechanical and optical waste paper sorting systems. Such sensors include lignin, gloss, stiffness, mid-infrared, infrared, and color sensors. In this review, also described the effectiveness of different waste paper sorting systems, and finally, recommended appropriate waste paper sorting techniques based on effectiveness and low-cost implementation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5


  1. Ahmed MT (2010) Life cycle analysis in developing countries an Egyptian perspective. Environmental impact assessment unit. Suez Canal University, Ismailia, 2010 (January 24, 2011)

  2. Asia Pro Eco Program (2006) Feeding China’s expanding demand for wood pulp: a diagnostic assessment of plantation development, fiber supply, and impacts on natural forests in China and in the South East Asia Region. Malaysia Report. ISBN 979-24-4676-1

  3. Bialski A, Gentile C, Sepall O (1978) Paper sorting method, US Patent No. 4,124,168

  4. Bialski A, Gentile C, Sepall O (1980) Paper sorting apparatus, US Patent No. 4,236,676

  5. Bruner RS, Morgan DR, Kenny GR, Gaddis PG, Lee D, Roggow JM (2003) System and method for sensing white paper, US Patent No. 6,570,653

  6. Bystrom S, Lonnstedt L (2000) Paper recycling: a discussion of methodological approaches. Elsevier Resour Conserv Recycl 28(2000):55–65

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Chakravarthi KK (2006) Development of online stiffness sensor for high speed sorting of recovered paper. Master’s thesis. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA

  8. Chandini CM (2001) Design of lignin sensor for identification of waste paper grades for an automatic waste paper sorting system. Master’s thesis. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA

  9. Chen HW, Yu RF, Liaw SL, Huang WC (2010) Information policy and management framework for environmental protection organization with ecosystem conception. Int J Environ Sci Technol 7(2):313–326

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Doak AG, Roe MG, Kenny GR (2006a) Multi-grade object sorting system and method, US Patent No. 2006/0109473

  11. Doak AG, Roe MG, Kenny GR (2006b) Multi-grade object sorting system and method, US Patent No. 7019822

  12. Doak AG, Roe MG, Kenny GR (2007a) Multi-grade object sorting system and method, US Patent No. 7173709

  13. Doak AG, Roe MG, Kenny GR (2007b) Multi-grade object sorting system and method, US Patent No. US2007/0002326

  14. Dzuraidah AW, Hussain A, Scavino E, Mustafa MM, Basri H (2006) Development of a prototype automated sorting system for plastic recycling. Sci Publ Am J Appl Sci 3(7):1924–1928

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Eixelberger R, Friedl P, Gschweitl K (2003) Method and apparatus for sorting waste paper of different grades and conditions, US Patent No. 6,506,991

  16. Ekvall T (1999) Key methodological issues for life cycle inventory analysis of paper recycling. Elsevier J Clean Prod 7(1999):281–294

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. European Commission (2001) The EU Commission’s reference document on best available techniques in the pulp and paper industry

  18. Faibish S, Bacakoglu H, Goldenberg AA (1997) An eye-hand system for automated paper recycling. In: Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Albuquerque, New Mexico, pp 9–14

  19. Forstall F (2002) Industry and trade summary. United States International Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20436, USITC Publication 3490, pp 26–27

  20. Grubbs M, Kenny GR, Gaddis PG (2001) Paper Sorting System, US Patent No. 6,250,472

  21. Gschweitl; Heinz K (1998) Method for sorting waste paper, European Patent EP0873797

  22. Hannan MA, Arebey M, Abdullah H, Begum RA, Basri H (2011) Solid waste truck monitoring and management using RFID, GIS and GSM. J Appl Sci Res 7(12):1961–1964

    Google Scholar 

  23. Holz E, Hutzler H (1986) Apparatus for dissolving and sorting waste paper, US Patent No. 4,632,320

  24. Hottenstein FA, Kenny GR, Friberg T, Jackson M (2000) High-speed automated optical sorting of recovered paper. In: Proceedings of TAPPI recycling symposium, 2000, vol 1, Atlanta, GA, pp 149–158

  25. Karunakaran M, Ramasubramanian MK, Venditti RA (2003) Mechatronic design and control of a waste paper sorting system for efficient recycling: development of a lignin sensor to distinguish recovered paper grades at high speed. In: APPI Technical Conference, 2003

  26. Kayo C, Hashimoto S, Moriguchi Y (2012) Paper and paperboard demand and associated carbon dioxide emissions in Asia through 2050. J Ind Ecol 16(4):529–540

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Khalfan Z (2002) Optical paper sorter. US Patent No. 6,335,501

  28. Khalfan Z, Greenspan S (2006a) Optical paper sorting method device and apparatus, US Patent No. 2006/0124511

  29. Khalfan Z, Greenspan S (2006b) Optical paper sorting method device and apparatus, US Patent No. 7,081,594

  30. Kumar RGP (2007) Mechatronic design of a waste paper sorting system for efficient recycling. Dissertation of the Master of Science, Mechanical Engineering. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

  31. Laurijssen J, Marsidi M, Westenbroek A, Worrell E, Faaij A (2010) Paper and biomass for energy? The impact of paper recycling on energy and CO2 emissions. Elsevier Resour Conserv Recycl 54(12):1208–1218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Mallapragada V (2004) Online lignin sensor for high speed sorting of newsprint from mixed waste. Master’s thesis. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA

  33. Mallapragada V, Ramasubramanian MK, Venditti RA (2004) A compact, high speed lignin sensor for the automated sorting of newsprint from mixed waste. In: Tappi Spring Technical Conference, 2004

  34. MSS Optical sorting Systems (2009). http://www.magsep.com/. Accessed 15 Aug 2009

  35. MSS Paper Sorting Systems (2009). http://www.recyclingtoday.com/news/news.asp?ID=742. Accessed 15 Aug 2009

  36. Ortner H, Bahr T, Musselmann W (1980) Process and apparatus for treating waste paper, US Patent No. 4,231,526

  37. Paper Competitors (2009). http://separation.wikispaces.com/Paper+Competitors. Accessed 10 Jul 2009

  38. Paper Grades (2009). http://www.paperonweb.com/ppmanf.htm. Accessed 12 Feb 2009

  39. Paper Recycling (2009). SPM paper recycling. Sdn Bhd, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. http://spmholdings.com.my/index.php?page=staticpages/paper. Accessed 10 Nov 2009

  40. Paper Recycling (2010). Malaysian newsprint industries. http://www.newsprint.com.my/. Accessed 10 Apr 2010

  41. Pati RK, Vrat P, Kumar P (2006) Economic analysis of paper recycling visa–vis wood as raw material. Int J Prod Econ 103(489–508):2006

    Google Scholar 

  42. Pati RK, Vrat P, Kumar P (2008) A goal programming model for paper recycling system. ScienceDirect Omega. Int J Manag Sci 36(2008):405–417

    Google Scholar 

  43. Pellenc (2009) Paper sorting Company. http://www.pellencst.com/en/1/products. Accessed 15 Aug 2009

  44. Petek J, Glavic P (1996) An integral approach to waste minimization in process industries. Elsevier Resour Conserv Recycl 17(169–188):1996

    Google Scholar 

  45. Pham DT, Alcock RJ (2003) Chap. 1 Automated visual inspection and artificial intelligence and Chap. 7 Industrial inspection systems. Smart inspection system—techniques and applications of intelligent vision. Academic Press, Great Britain, pp 4–6, and 204–205

  46. Rahman MO, Hannan MA, Scavino E, Hussain A, Basri H (2009a) An efficient paper grade identification method for automatic recyclable waste paper sorting. Eur J Sci Res 25(1):96–103

    Google Scholar 

  47. Rahman MO, Hussain A, Scavino E, Hannan MA, Basri H (2009b) Segregating recyclable waste papers using co-occurrence features. In: The 9th WSEAS international conference on applied computer science (ACS’09), 2009, Genova, Italy, pp 187–191

  48. Rahman MO, Hussain A, Scavino E, Hannan MA, Basri H (2009c) Recyclable waste paper sorting using template matching. LNCS, vol 5857. Springer, Berlin, pp 467–478

  49. Rahman MO, Hussain A, Basri NEA, Scavino E, Basri H, Hannan MA (2010) Waste paper grade identification system using window features. J Comput Inf Syst 6(7):2077–2091

    Google Scholar 

  50. Rahman MO, Hussain A, Hannan MA, Scavino E, Basri H (2011) Intelligent computer vision system for segregating recyclable waste papers. Expert Syst Appl: 10398–10407. doi:10.1016/j.eswa.2011.02.112

  51. Rahman MO, Hussain A, Scavino E, Hannan MA, Basri H (2012a) Object identification using DNA computing algorithm. In: WCC 2012 IEEE world congress on computational intelligence, 10–15 June 2012, Brisbane, Australia, pp 1454–1460

  52. Rahman MO, Hussain A, Scavino E, Hannan MA, Basri H (2012b) Real-time waste paper grading using CBR approach. Int J Innov Compuy Inf Control 8(1(A)):471–488

    Google Scholar 

  53. Rahman MO, Hussain A, Basri NEA, Scavino E, Basri H, Hannan MA (2012c) Chromaticity based waste paper grade identification. Accepted for Publication in International Arab Journal of Information Technology (IAJIT), Vol.9, No.5, September 2012, First Online Publication

  54. Ramasubramanian MK, Venditti RA, Ammineni CM, Mallapragada M (2005) Optical sensor for noncontact measurement of lignin content in high-speed moving paper surfaces. IEEE Sens J 5(5):1132–1139

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Ramasubramanian MK, Venditti RA, Gillella PK (2008) Sensor systems for high speed intelligent sorting of waste paper in recycling. http://www.osti.gov/bridge/servlets/purl/919471-VGwxA0/919471.PDF. Accessed 20 Feb 2008

  56. Ramasubrmanian MK, Venditti RA, Katuri KC (2007) Behavior of paper on a high-speed conveyor subjected to air jet impingement—a method for bending stiffness estimation. Mech Mater Struct 2(2):201–219

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. RedWave (2009) BT-Wolfgang Binder. http://www.redwave.at/altpapierrecycling/. Accessed 10 Sept 2009

  58. Remade Scotland (2005) Initial business case for utilisation of automated optical paper sorting technology. Caledonian Environment Centre, Glasgow Caledonian University. http://www.remade.org.uk/files/InitialBusinessCaseforUtilisationofAutomatedOpticalPaperSortingTechnology_16122222124.pdf. Accessed 25 Feb 2008

  59. Ruwaard JMB, Wassenhove LNV, Gabel HL, Weaver PM (1996) An environmental life cycle optimization model for the European pulp and paper industry. Omega Int J Mgmt Sci 24(6):615–629

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Sandberg NH (1932) Sorting device for waste paper, US Patent No. 1,847,265

  61. Schmidt JH, Holm P, Merrild A, Christensen P (2007) Life cycle assessment of the waste hierarchy—a Danish case study on waste paper. ScienceDirect, Elsevier. Waste Manag 27(2007):1519–1530

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Spencer MW (1994) Waste paper disintegration, classification and pulping system, US Patent No. 5,324,389

  63. TITECH autosort (2009). http://www.titech.com/recycling-equipment/titech-autosort-10715. Accessed 15 Aug 2009

  64. Venditti RA, Ramasubramanian MK, Katuri KC (2005) Development of a bending stiffness sensor for the automated sorting of recovered paper. In: Engineering, Pulping, and Environmental Conference, Philadelphia, 2005

  65. Venditti RA, Ramasubramanian MK, Kalyan CK (2007) A noncontact sensor for the identification of paper and board samples on a high speed sorting conveyor. J Tech Assoc Aust N Z Pulp Paper Ind 60(5):366–371

    Google Scholar 

  66. Villanueva A, Wenzel H (2007) Paper waste—recycling, incineration or landfilling? A review of existing life cycle assessments. ScienceDirect, Elsevier. Waste Manag 27(2007):S29–S46

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  67. WasteCap (2008) WasteCap of Massachusetts, 68 Hopkinton Road, Westboro, MA 01581, March 2008. http://www.wastecap.org/wastecap/commodities/paper/paper.htm. Accessed 15 July 2009

  68. Watada J, Rohani AB (2008) DNA computing and its applications. In: Eighth international conference on intelligent systems design and applications, 978-0-7695-3382-7/08 IEEE, pp 288–294

  69. Würtz H, Breum NO (1997) Exposure to microorganisms during manual sorting of recyclable paper of different quality. Ann Agric Environ Med 4(1997):129–135

    Google Scholar 

  70. Yeh C-W, Chu C-P (2008) Molecular verification of rule-based systems based on dna computation. IEEE Trans Knowl Data Eng 20(7):965–975

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Zaman AU (2010) Comparative study of municipal solid waste treatment technologies using life cycle assessment method. Int J Environ Sci Technol 7(2):225–234

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The project is sponsored and supported by the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia grants UKM-MI-OUP-2011.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. O. Rahman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rahman, M.O., Hussain, A. & Basri, H. A critical review on waste paper sorting techniques. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol. 11, 551–564 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13762-013-0222-3

Download citation


  • Waste paper sorting
  • Paper grade
  • Template matching
  • Lignin sensor
  • Stiffness sensor
  • Color sensor
  • Intelligent computer vision