Recycling paper is one of the many steps towards forest conservation and environmental regeneration – we all talk about it, but how many of us really get down to doing anything about it?

Ancient Egyptians took the first steps towards inventing paper when they made, what we call today, Papyrus. Papyrus scrolls were made by taking slices of the inner part of the papyrus stem, flattening it, then pounding it into a hard, thin sheet. The word paper comes from the word papyrus. Paper itself was invented by Ts’ai Lun in A.D. 105. It is believed that he mixed hemp, mulberry bark and rags with water, mashed it into pulp, pressed out the liquid and hung it to dry in the sun. Paper was thus born and this humble mixture would mark the beginning of one of mankind’s greatest communication revolutions.

We have now reached a stage, where despite the ecological and human cost of paper production we continue to misuse and throw vast amounts of this resource after minimum use. We are also aware of the vast potential that exists to recycle much of the wasted paper. If paper is recycled the amount of waste going to landfill is reduced and less timber is used. Managing our insatiable demand for timber should reduce the need to clear old growth forests, rich in biodiversity, which must instead be protected from commercial logging.

In terms of environmental pollution and energy consumption, recycled paper compares favourably with the production of wood-based pulp made by chemical or mechanical means. As fresh wood fibres are needed to guarantee paper recycling, so recycled paper and forest products complement each other both ecologically and economically.

Facts about recycling paper:

  • Producing recycled paper involves between 28% – 70% less energy consumption than virgin paper and uses less water. That’s because most of the energy used to make paper is the pulping needed to turn wood into paper.
  • Recycled paper produces fewer polluting emissions to air (95% of air pollution) and water. Recycled paper is not usually re-bleached and when it is, oxygen, rather than chlorine, is usually used. This reduces the amount of dioxins, which are released into the environment as a by-product of the chlorine bleaching processes.
  • Paper produces methane when it decomposes, which is a potent greenhouse gas (20 times more potent than carbon dioxide). It is becoming increasingly accepted that global warming is a reality, and that methane and carbon dioxide emissions have to be reduced to lessen the effects of global warming.
  • By weight, 43% of all municipal solid waste is made from paper or paperboard.
  • Over 73% of all old newspapers in the United States are recovered and recycled.

There are currently several groups that recycle used paper, and there are local recycling materials brokers that will buy used paper for eventual recycling. Because these outlets for used paper currently exist, the government should expand paper recycling to divert more paper from the landfill for recycling. We recommend that the Municipality require all offices and copy/print shops to separate paper for recycling, and implement weekly recycling drives for residential paper waste. These initiatives could be expanded to include other materials once the end uses for these materials are developed.

Meanwhile, you could always start recycling your old telephone and TV guides, etc.

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