What does “TCF” vs. “ECF” refer to in paper specifications?

Answered by Amy Kearns, Manager of Worldwide Product Planning and Marketing Strategy, Supplies Business Group, Xerox Corporation

Can you describe what "TCF" and "ECF" refer to in paper specifications and when I should spec one vs. the other?

K. M.

TCF refers to totally chlorine free and ECF is elemental chlorine free.

Bleaching is one step in paper manufacturing and serves to whiten the brown cellulose fibers after the pulping process.

In the case of ECF sheets, the primary bleaching component is Chlorine Dioxide (ClO2) gas. With TCF sheets, there are many options available to the paper industry. One of the most common practices is to use oxygen (O2) as the primary bleaching component. Mills independently determine their own process for using oxygen to bleach paper during the manufacturing process, there is no single method or formula.

The advent of these types of pulps has been due to environmental concerns. ECF papers manufactured without the use of chlorine gas is considered, from an environmental standpoint, to be better for the environment than products manufactured with pulps produced with traditional processes. By the same token, the TCF sheet is considered by some to be better, from an environmental standpoint, than products manufactured with ECF pulps.

A paper’s performance is not impacted significantly by the bleaching process that produces the pulp for most papers. Therefore, the decision as to when to specify ECF vs TCF is really a matter of personal preference. At times, the availability of products manufactured with TCF pulps may be limited.

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