Just reading about what wood goes through to become paper makes me think of the environment. I thought that wood scraps went into making paper but that’s not true (or wasn’t true, things can change). A tree is felled, limbs and bark removed before the remaining log makes it way to the papermill.
The wood is ground down and sits in a slurry of chemicals to encourage the fibers to separate. The pulp is then treated with a variety of chemicals to color and give the final paper particular qualities. This is not new. Apparently various chemicals have been used since the dawn of papermaking. I can’t honestly say how those chemicals affect the environment but the process has to make you wonder.
So I did a little research. I want you to know that I got this information from the internet and it all had citations but that doesn’t make it 100% factual. I don’t share this information to condemn papermaking or the use of paper. I found it interesting and it encouraged me to look at my paper use. Am I working to be part of the solution?
Rags (linen and cotton) are still recycled to make high quality papers.
Did I mention, yesterday, that paper has the longest history of recycling?
Every ton of paper recycled saves 17 trees which absorb 250 pounds of CO2. If a ton of paper is burned it creates 1500 pounds of CO2.
Paper makes up approximately 35% of the US’s landfill waste.
Pulp and paper is the 6th largest industrial polluter in the US. Of that, 66% is air pollution, 10% water pollution, and 24% land pollution. It is responsible for 5% of all pollution.
Worldwide pulp and paper is the 5th largest consumer of energy, consuming 4% of the world’s energy.
Pulp and paper wastes more water than any other industry.
The worldwide consumption of paper has increased 400% in the last 40 years. 35% of harvested trees go to paper making. (In the US, it’s 36%.)
The 16 billion paper cups used for coffee in the US in 2006 equaled 6.5 million trees. They used 4 billion gallons of water and left 253 million pounds of waste.
North Americans use 58% of all the paper cups produced in the world which equals about 130 billion cups a year.
In 2015, 690 million pounds of toxic waste entered the air. 20% came from paper and pulp.
Paper waste accounts for 40% of the total waste in the US (equals 71.6 million tons).
EPA found that recycling paper (vs virgin paper) causes 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution.
Like I said, I found this information interesting. We try to reduce our paper use but I know we could do a whole lot better. I like to think this is a good reminder to think beyond an initial use when it comes to the things we consume. I have reusable cups for the coffee shop but am I making sure I always use them. Do I use reusable cups in most situations? (If you want an honest answer – it’s no. I am not that great about making sure I am using reusable items over disposable.)
This is just a chance to remind myself and others that we can do something starting now to make the world a better place. Even if it’s just preventing one more paper cup from hitting the landfill.