Pulp and paper manufacturers are the largest users of water worldwide. Tremendous amounts of water are needed in the pulping process (reducing wood to a fibrous mat), the bleaching process (whitens and brightens 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 cleaned before it is returned to rivers or municipal water systems. At Mohawk, water is continually recycled within the mill. Water that can no longer be used ultimately goes through a water treatment process prior to its return to local water bodies.
In the 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 that have been 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 benign 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.
Mohawk’s environmental staff has been given the authority to affect change and ensure that products are manufactured as responsibly as possible. They are consulted during the product development process and have veto power over new chemicals or additives.