Newsprint Manufacturing, Grades, Properties, Storage, Transportation, and Recycling


Charles Fenerty, a Canadian poet from Nova Scotia, invented the wood pulp process for papermaking, which was first adapted into the production of newsprint paper in 1844. An off-white and uncoated paper, newsprint is made on using mechanical, chemical, and deinked wood-pulp fibers. The mechanical pulp content in newsprint gives it better opaqueness and print quality, while its chemical pulp content strengthens the paper web and keeps it intact during processing through paper machines and printing presses.

Falling in the grammage range of 40 to 65 GSM, newsprint is inexpensive, durable, and suitable for four-color printing. Not surprisingly, it is a popular paper choice around the world for newspapers, advertising materials, and other mass-produced publications. It is regularly used in a long web of paper in offset, letterpress, and flexographic printing.

Apart from printing purposes, newsprint paper can be used as for filler for boxes, tray liners, wrapper, and packaging purposes.

Newsprint rolls in the back shop of a newspaper publisher. Image credit: NET

Newsprint, traditionally, is made by processing debarked and chipped woods from spruce, fir, pine, and other softwood trees in a mechanical pulp mill. Wood from hardwood trees is also sometimes used. In the processing, the wood process into wood pulp. Since the production of newsprint must be cost-effective, the processed wood pulp does not undergo the expensive and time-consuming chemical process to remove all traces of lignin from it. Lignin is a substance that, along with cellulose and hemicellulose, occurs naturally in wood and tends to turn dark when exposed to sunlight and oxygen. Since the wood pulp that is used to make newsprint retains its lignin content, the resulting newsprint is rendered vulnerable to sun exposure. The lignin molecules in the paper darken as they get oxidized, and this causes the paper to turn yellow. With further sun exposure, the paper also becomes brittle.

In addition to wood pulp, vegetable fibers and recycled fibers are used to make newsprint. The fibers are divided into two parts, with one apportioned to mechanical pulping and the other to chemical processing. The two processed pulps are then combined, and the paper that results from the combination is bright, opaque, and with a high tear strength. To make low strength papers, the wood pieces must only undergo mechanical pulping and forgo the chemical pulping.

Newsprint manufacturing requires specialized machinery for pulping wood and other materials, for refining the resultant pulp, to remove contaminations and impurities, and making paper. After diluting the pulp with water to achieve the desired pulp consistency, the pulp slurry is processed on a paper machine. As the pulp moves along on a moving wire screen, its water content drains off, the pulp fibers start to adhere by bonding together, and the paper starts to take form. The newly-created paper web then undergoes heavy pressing between rollers to squeeze out water. It is then dried on drying cylinders and winded into parent rolls. Later the parent rolls are rewound to cut the paper into desired width paper rolls that are then shipped off.

Pulping Processes for Newsprint Production

There are two main pulping processes for commercial production of newsprint.

Thermomechanical Pulping

The wood for the papermaking is debarked and cut into small pieces that are further chipped to form wood chips. These chips then undergo a high-intensity steaming process to soften them up for the next step, which is pulping. Without the prior steaming, pulping the chips would take much longer.

Thermochemical Pulping

The wood chips are chemically treated before pulping, and this treatment facilitates the separation of their fibers to such an extent that the resulting fibers retain their flexibility, strength, and length. This leads to the creation of brighter, denser, and higher strength papers.

Wood pulp is more favored for making paper than various other plant sources such as reed, straw, and bagasse. The reason for this is the longer length of wood fibers as compared to that of fibers from the other plant sources. In addition, wood fibers also possess a robust forte that sees them withstand pulping, bleaching, and paper processing to form a bright, opaque paper. On the other hand, plant fibers, given their shorter lengths, are incapable of withstanding the same production processes as wood pulp.

Both high strength and low strength papers are produced using these processes and machinery. The high strength paper is produced using a combination of thermomechanical and thermochemical processes, while the weak strength paper only needs to undergo the thermomechanical process.

Newsprint comes in three main grades, standard newsprint, improved newsprint, and specialty newsprint. In addition, many other types of newsprint are available in the market for a range of purposes.

Standard Newsprint

Most newspapers around the world are printed in standard newsprint. Its popularity stems from its sheer affordability. It is inexpensive, but, on the flipside, it is also thin and non-archivable. This type of newsprint will deteriorate over time, but given the transient nature of newspapers, this is probably not an issue for newspaper publishers.

Improved Newsprint

The color supplements and outer pages that often come with regular newspapers and which standout for their better paper quality are usually printed on improved newsprint. It is slightly thicker, brighter, and somewhat smoother in texture than standard newsprint and prints colors very well. Often, it is used for printing the color newspaper sections while the other sections get are printed on standard newsprint.

Specialty Newsprint

Advertising pamphlets and other colorful printed materials generally require full-color and four-color printing processes, and this means that the paper they use must be thicker, capable of absorbing color well, and strong enough to withstand being processed through the printers. Specialty newsprint, which is thicker than standard newsprint and improved newsprint, fulfills these requirements.

Other Types of Newsprint

Newsprint comes in varying degrees of thicknesses and varying color ranges. In addition to standard and improved newsprint, newspaper publishers like pastel-colored newsprint and use it for the tabloid sections. The term ‘yellow journalism’ arose from this preference. Very thin newsprint varieties are used to print thick phone books.

Newsprint must be printable, tear-resistant, opaque, dimensionally stable, and not dry enough to collect dust.

  • The high percentage of mechanical wood pulp in newsprint makes it very receptive to printing inks. They are absorbed fast into the paper, increasing printing efficiency.
  • Since newsprint is processed through fast-moving printing presses, it must be strong enough to pass through them without tearing up. This newsprint property is called its runnability and newsprint is said to have good runnability if it can emerge intact from the printing machines.
  • The newsprint must also have at least 6% to 8% water content to avoid dryness and to maintain its dimensional stability. The latter is essential for correct printing.

Newsprint comes in category 26211 in the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) and category 3221221 in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

What's the ideal storage environment?

To prevent newsprint from degrading, it must be stored in an acid-free and stable environment that is shielded from direct UV light and does not have any artificial heat sources. Ideally, the storage area should have a temperature range of 15-20 degrees centigrade and a relative humidity range of 35-50%. If necessary, humidity should be controlled with humidity monitoring equipment.

Packaging newsprint in the correct way is essential for newsprint handling and preservation. To begin with, the newsprint paper is rolled tightly around a central core that may be of paperboard or metal.

The rolled newsprint is then wrapped in several layers of kraft paper sheets, and a layer of asphalt paper or any other waterproof paper is wrapped about the kraft paper covering to protect from moisture. This outer wrapping is also folded over to cover the ends of the roll, which are then packed with corrugated board covers. The roll is finally wrapped in a plastic-coated layer of kraft paper, and the ends are fixed close with a wooden or metal plug.


Transporting newsprint rolls is not a simple matter as the paper is vulnerable to temperatures, humidity, and moisture, and to the impacts, compressions, and frictions caused by improper cargo handling.


The paper rolls must always be shielded from exposure to direct heat. When transporting the paper rolls, it is best to check if the temperature is in the 0°C - 25°C range. This is considered the ideal temperature for maintaining the paper rolls in good order.


Since newsprint is made from wood and plant fibers that tend to absorb moisture and swell, the paper rolls stand a high chance of getting distorted and damaged in a humid climate or if they get exposed to weather situations such as rain, snow, or seawater. Damp storage areas and surfaces can cause damage too. Covering the rolls with jute should help.


Ventilation can be a tricky issue when transporting paper rolls in a cargo hold. If warm wind ventilates a cold cargo area, the resulting cargo sweat can damage the rolls. If a cold wind ventilates a warm cargo area, it can dampen the rolls. It may help to have six air exchanges per hour, as long as the air in the hold has a higher dew point than that of the outside air.

Mechanical Influences:

Paper rolls may be damaged by impacts during loading and unloading, by being compressed in storage, and by jostling against other rolls or other cargo during transit.


a. Distortion:

The most common damage during shipment is the distortion or ovalization of the paper rolls. This comes about from stacking the rolls horizontally on top of one another. The upper rolls exert pressure on the lower ones causing the distortion. To a slight degree it wouldn’t matter, but if the entire roll is distorted, it is no longer usable for printing and will have to be rewound or discarded.

b. Telescoping:

The pneumatic cargo handling equipment sometimes fails in its handling and may inadvertently tug the rollout of its tight coil, resulting in a telescoping of the paper. It is difficult to restore the roll to its original form after this, and the paper cannot be used for printing.

c. Indentations:

This is common damage in both horizontally and vertically stored paper rolls. It occurs when other objects, uneven storage surfaces, cargo securing materials, cargo handling equipment, and parts of cargo transports press too hard into the rolls.

d. Edge Damage:

Paper roll edges can be damaged while if stood up vertically on an uneven or dirt-laden surface, or if stored horizontally with unsupported roll ends sticking out to bump into other cargo.

e. Tear Damage:

If the paper rolls get ripped, the paper up to the tear depth is rendered unusable. Several hundred paper layers can end up getting wasted.


To prevent mishaps and avoid damage, it is necessary to ensure that the newsprint rolls are adequately packed and padded to protect them from rubbing against other rolls or other objects.

During cargo handling, all due care must be taken to protect the rolls from direct exposure to rain, snow, and other sources of moisture. If moisture seeps it, the packaging may swell and damage the paper.

Precautions are necessary during loading, unloading, and storing. If the rolls are roughly handled, they may tear, and this can make them partially or entirely unusable.

Paper roll distortion or ovalization is another problem that could arise from incorrect cargo handling. Distorted rolls can no longer be used for printing and must be rewound or discarded.

It is imperative therefore that the cargo handling of paper rolls be done only with special cargo handling gear and forklift trucks with paper roll clamps.


To prevent in-transit damage, the paper rolls must be carefully loaded and correctly secured. If loaded horizontally, they must be secured in a way that will prevent distortion of lower rolls. If stored vertically, the roll ends must have adequate packing to avert damage, and the spaces between the rolls must also be filled to prevent them from knocking against one another.

For newspaper printing, the newspaper publisher buys newsprint rolls from the paper mills, distributors or merchants and transports them to the pressroom to print the run-of-press newspaper sections. The width or web width of the newsprint roll determines the number of front and back newspaper pages that can be printed from one roll. A full newsprint roll is generally enough for printing two four-paged sections on each side. These sections are then cut in half.

Stack of newspaper

What's the difference between digital and traditional newspaper printing?

The difference lies in the printing process used. Digital newspaper printing is carried out using a digital printer. Digital printers have a low output as compared to the offset printing press used in traditional newspaper printing. A digital printer can print around 300 newspaper copies while the offset printing press can crank out several thousand copies at once. For larger runs, traditional printing wins hands down, and it is cheaper.

In both processes, different types of papers can be used to suit the page and format requirements of the newspaper that is to be published. The paper weight in grams per square meter (GSM) determines its quality and the paper’s ISO rating denotes its brightness level; the higher the ISO rating, the brighter the paper.

a. Digital Printing

Digital printing typically uses improved newsprint with a grammage of 55 GSM and a bright paper with a grammage of 90 GSM

The improved newsprint is made from 100% virgin fiber. The paper has an ISO76 level of brightness and is heavier than standard newsprint. It is commonly used to print digitally printed newspapers and other materials.

Neujet silk paper which is used to print digital tabloids comes in the 90 GSM category and has an ISO112 brightness that gives it a smooth, silky feel and a high degree of whiteness.

b. Traditional Printing

Traditional printing generally uses five main types of papers such as the 45 GSM salmon newsprint, the 52 GSM recycled newsprint with an ISO63, the 55 GSM improved newsprint with an ISO76, the 70 GSM improved newsprint with an ISO83, and the 70 GSM wood-free bond paper with an ISO96. Except for the 52 GSM recycled newsprint, all the rest are made from 100% virgin fiber.

Newspaper printing. Image credit: NET

The 45 GSM salmon newsprint is pinkish-hued newsprint that is used for printing business newspapers such as The Financial Times. The others are heavier than standard daily newspapers and are generally used to print traditional broadsheets, photo-rich papers, colorful tabloids, and glossy magazines. The 70 GSM wood-free bond paper can withstand light exposure without any discoloring.

  • Waste newspapers are recycled to produce the pulp required to make newsprint.
  • Recovered newspapers are used to make the light card containers used for a variety of edible and non-edible products. Items like egg cartons, paper carry bags, tissues, and insulation materials can be made from recycled newspapers.
  • While newsprint is recyclable, its pulp cannot be reused endlessly and is limited for the reuse up to four times. Repeated pulping causes the paper fibers to disintegrate, and to restore the needed volume for making newsprint, it then becomes necessary to introduce a certain amount of virgin fiber pulp in the papermaking process.
  • The pulp from one ton of recycled newspapers can be used to manufacture enough newsprint to print 70,000 pages of the standard newspaper size.
Old newspaper


The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) specifies the scrap grades into which recyclable newspapers are assigned. The ISRI’s 2011 circular allocates the grades as follows:

a. Old Newspaper (ONP)

This grade includes carefully sorted old newspapers and similar papers collected from various public and private sources.

The sorted papers must not contain any prohibitive and outthrow materials, or, if present, these must be less than 2% and 4%, respectively.

If other accepted papers are included in the grade, their quantity must remain less than 30%.

b. Regular News, De-ink Quality (#7 ONP)

This grade is made up of recent newspapers and other acceptable papers that have been sorted to remove any yellowed pages. Magazines, if they are in good condition, can be included in this grade.

If prohibitive materials occur in this grade, their percentage must be less than 1%, and together with outthrows, the percentage must be less than 3%.

In case of other acceptable papers, their quantity must be less than 20%.

c. Special News, De-ink Quality (#8 ONP)

This grade consists only of sorted recent newspapers and other acceptable papers and, ideally, should not include magazines and not more than the minimum amounts of colored newspaper sections.

The quantity of prohibitive materials in this grade must be less than 1% and together with outthrows not more than 2%.

The quantity of other acceptable papers must be limited to 10%.

d. Over-Issue News (OI or OIN or OINP)

This grade includes unused, discarded, and waste newsprint papers that contain only a minimum quantity of colored sections.

This grade does not permit any prohibitive and outthrows materials.

How do I recycle old newspaper?

Old newspapers intended for recycling must be stored in a dry environment. Exposure to water or moisture will deteriorate the paper and add extra heft to the newspaper bales.

The old newspapers will also need to be stored away from direct sunlight. Exposure to too much sun can degrade newspapers and turn them yellow. This can make them unsuitable for recycling. For optimum recycling purposes, old newspapers must retain as much of their original quality as possible.

Take every precaution to avoid soiling and contaminating the old newspapers. It is also important to not mix papers of different grades with the newspaper. Such a mixture can affect the required traits of newsprint and not in the manner desired.

Why do newspapers turn yellow over time?

The reason for the yellowing phenomenon lies in the raw material used to make the newspapers. The primary material is wood, which contains cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, and it is lignin, which has the propensity to turn yellow on reacting with sunlight and oxygen. For higher-end papers, lignin is chemically removed from the wood pulp, but for newsprint to remain inexpensive, this process is bypassed. When the wood is pulped to make newsprint, cellulose and lignin are processed along with it. Their molecules become part of the manufactured paper and when the paper is exposed to light and air, these molecules are exposed as well. As mentioned, lignin turns yellow with light exposure, and the paper then takes on a yellowish hue.

Are newspapers toxic?

The types of inks used to print newspapers determine if they are toxic or not. Newspapers were previously printed using petroleum-based inks that contained volatile organic compounds, and this can make them unsafe. In modern times, most newspapers use printing inks made with a soybean oil or water base and these are generally non- toxic.

What kind of inks do newspapers use?

Newspaper printing inks are made using an oil or water base to which various dyes, pigments, additives, and other ingredients are added. In the past, petroleum oil was commonly used as base or vehicle, but, given its toxicity, it is no longer in widespread use. Soybean oil is now a preferred base choice, and organic and inorganic substances are added to it to give the ink color, stability, and faster drying ability. Ink made with soybean oil is biodegradable and can be recycled.

Does newspaper ink contain lead?

No. In the earlier days of printing, the lead was in common use, but that is no longer the case. In the USA, EPA guidelines forbid the use of heavy metals in newspaper printing. The printing inks are mostly made from organic and otherwise safer materials nowadays.

What is the size of a broadsheet newspaper?

A broadsheet, as the name implies, consists of a broad sheet of paper that is folded in half vertically to form four pages. In newspaper parlance, this is called a spread or a full broadsheet. A full broadsheet can have several broadsheets nesting within it, including a half broadsheet. This is typically an unfolded inside page. While the broadsheet is unarguably the largest format in newspapers, with approximate measurements of 29 1⁄2 by 23 1⁄2 inches, these dimensions tend to vary around the world. In the USA, the standard broadsheet dimensions for the front-page half used to be 15 inches width and 22 3⁄4 inches length, but many publishers have now reverted to 12 inches width and 22 3⁄4 inches long to be more cost-effective. Australian and New Zealand broadsheets have A1 sized spreads and South African broadsheets measure 32.3 inches by 22.8 inches.

What is newsprint paper used for in art?

Newsprint is popular with artists as an inexpensive medium for drawing and sketching. It is particularly good for practicing gesture drawings and other line drawings using pencils, charcoal, pastels, pens, sketch pens, and markers. Newsprint has a smooth surface and, as it is readily and cheaply available in paper rolls, drawing pads, and drawing sheets, artists can be as creative as they want without worrying about spoiling or wasting the paper.



Newspaper Club




Other Primers:

Kraft Paper

Offset Paper

Compiled by Umesh G.

Written by Sonal P.