Pulp and paper manufacturers are among the largest users of water worldwide. Large quantities of water are requiredfor the pulping process (reducing wood to a fibrous mat), the bleaching process (whitening and brightening the fibers), and the papermaking process (a slurry of 99% water conveys fiber onto a Fourdrinier paper machine).
In the U.S., water that is used in the pulp and papermaking process is collected and treated before it is returned to the environment. At Mohawk, water is continually recycled for reuse within the mill. Water that can no longer be used will undergo water treatment processes prior to discharge.
In the not too distant past, the production of bright white paper required the use of pulps that had been bleached with elemental chlorine. This bleaching process resulted in byproducts found to be environmentally harmful. To reduce these byproducts throughout North America, pulp producers have virtually eliminated elemental chlorine bleaching methods and have replaced them with more environmentally responsible technology, primarily "ECF" (elemental chlorine free) bleaching processes.
- ECF (elemental chlorine free) – These are pulps or papers that may have been bleached with chlorine compounds such as chlorine dioxide (ClO2), as opposed to elemental chlorine (Cl2).
- PCF (process chlorine free) – These are papers that contain postconsumer recycled fiber that was processed without the use of any additional chlorine or chlorine compounds. If these papers also contain a percentage of virgin fiber, the virgin fiber must have been processed without the use of any chlorine or chlorine compounds.
- TCF (totally chlorine free) – These are pulps or papers that are bleached without the use of chlorine or chlorine compounds.