Are Brown Napkins Recycled?
All paper pulp is inherently brown (“kraft”); white napkins are achieved through bleaching. Even virgin pulp (the stuff direct from trees) undergoes bleaching. That said, white napkins are white typically because they are made of “newer” pulp and require less bleaching to become white.
The brown "recycled" napkins are composed primarily of “post-secondary material” (i.e. cardboard boxes, phonebooks, egg cartons, etc). This material has typically been dyed before (like the yellow pages in a phonebook) so it requires more bleaching to reach the brilliant white color of white napkins. In manufacturing, it is simply easier to leave post-secondary material its natural brown color, rather than bleach it all the way to white (it also requires a lot more chemicals).
From white, tissue can be colored further. Through a series of dye baths throughout the month, tissue is dyed progressively darker. As such, lighter colors (such as ivory, pink, yellow, and gray) are available earlier in the month and darker colors (green, navy blue, and black) are available later in the month.*
In summation, all pulp begins as "kraft." Some goes straight to manufacturing, becoming kraft products. The rest is bleached. From there, we get either white tissue or a series of progressively darkening tissue dye lots, resulting in the myriad of napkin colors we can provide to our customers.
*Orders are accepted all month long due to storage of dyed tissue Timeline for colored tissue more significant for larger orders.