We have grown accustomed to seeing virgin paper as "normal", and three arguments tend to get used to avoid the use of recycled paper: it's more expensive, it's too dark, and it doesn't work well in printers and copiers.
However, these arguments don't stand up to much scrutiny. Today, for most paper uses, there is no good reason not to use recycled paper.
Let's have a closer look at the writing paper that we use for printing and copying.
The cost is roughly the same
Making recycled paper is less work than making virgin paper (fewer resources are needed), and the price of both types of paper can fluctuate considerably, because pulp prices are fixed to international stock market indexes tied to changing supply and demand.
Let us first take a look at the problem from a practical viewpoint. For the vast majority of paper's functions, even in presentations of important documents at high-level meetings (where the paper's function is just to present text and images), the degree of whiteness of the paper is entirely irrelevant. It is however, relevant, in some graphics applications, or where a certain level of contrast is necessary.
In terms of aesthetics, the degree of whiteness of paper may be important if what we do with the paper generates a certain mood, whether it's in a social, work, or artistic environment. However, these aesthetics are completely culturally subjective and modifiable, just as we can rethink the way fashion conditions us to perceive clothes.
In order to stay abreast of the times, it's very important to rethink our aesthetics and our customs and bring them into consistency with the possibilities available to our finite planet. To limit ourselves in this way is not incompatible with freedom of expression: Human creativity is limitlessly fertile within a “limited” environment.
Given all that, lets look at the recycled and virgin papers found on the market and compare their whiteness:
No jams for copiers and printers
One problem with recycled paper when it first appeared on the market was that it jammed up office machinery (printers, copiers and faxes) more often than virgin paper.
That's no longer a problem. Both printer and paper technology have evolved, and today, print paper manufacturers are careful to make paper that is less likely to jam.
There are lots of grades of paper, but for the majority of the brands, both virgin and recycled paper will work well in office and copy equipment. In fact, many paper manufacturers (Océ, Xerox, Epson, HP...) sell recycled papers. One large wholesaler of paper, Océ, stated: Our experience with recycled paper is excellent, we actually sell more recycled paper than virgin paper and we haven't had any problems with it.
In general, a paper's packaging should say whether it will work well with office equipment. Some types only work well in inkjet printers. To be sure that it will not jam in office equipment, ask the manufacturer or distributor if the paper meets the standards EN 12281, DIN 19309 or AFNOR Q11-0132 (these are not often stated on the package).
To prevent jams, it helps to occasionally clean dust from the paper feeder, and store the paper in a dry place where it won't absorb humidity.