Paper – We Use Lots of It!
Paper – it’s everywhere. There are 24 billion newspapers published every year. Add 2 billion books and 350 million magazines. The average office uses 10,000 sheets of paper in a year. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper in that year. It works out to every person in the United States using 700 pounds of paper yearly. Put it all together and paper takes up as much as 40% of landfill space. The good news is that paper can be recycled as many as 7 times – being used and reused.
Old Paper Becomes New
What happens when you recycle? The recycled paper is mixed with water and chemicals and broken down. Then, it’s heated and chopped. It finally becomes stands of cellulose or pulp. Paper manufactures can mix this recycled product with pulp that comes from trees to make new paper. Each type of paper becomes something different. Your old newspaper could come back as a new edition in the future or it might become a paper plate. It could even be used to make sheetrock or kitty litter. A magazine may return as the daily newspaper or as paperboard. A cardboard box could be made into a new box or a paper bag. White paper is the most valuable as it could come back as itself – bleached and cleaned and ready to go in the printer one more time.
Save Water, Energy and Pollution
What’s your energy bill? A ton of paper that gets recycled saves enough energy to power the average home for six months. Impressive! It saves about 7,000 gallons of water that would be used during the manufacturing process of new paper. Here’s an example that shows the savings. If you recycled 500 phone books, you’d start by saving somewhere between 17 and 31 trees. You’d save those 7,000 gallons of water plus 463 gallons of oil. You’d keep 3.06 cubic yards out of the landfill and you’d save 4,077 kilowatts. Five hundred families would also get the bonus of getting rid of the phonebooks they haven’t used because the Internet is so much easier.
The Importance of a Tree
Maybe you don’t worry too much about just tossing out paper because you know it will decompose and go away. True, but as it decomposes it will produce methane gas – that’s one of the greenhouse gases that is contributing to climate change. Plus, without the recycled pulp, more trees will be needed and when a tree is cut down the environment loses its carbon dioxide absorbing capacity. That means that another gas that contributes to climate change is left in the atmosphere because the tree is gone.
What Can You Recycle
The paper industry recognizes 5 different grades of paper. The first is old corrugated containers – those are the boxes your Internet buys come in and sometimes the packaging of products. Mixed paper is a little bit of everything – mail, phone books, catalogs and magazines. Newspaper is just exactly what it says – newsprint. Finally, there’s what they call high grade deinked paper – that’s simple. It’s the letterhead, copy paper and envelopes you recycle only the ink has been removed in the pulp making process. Last is what they call pulp substitutes. You won’t have it because is the discarded scraps from mills, but you might be using something made from it!
What About Shredded Paper?
Some paper needs to be destroyed. It may be the business plan for the coming year, information about an employee or customer that could lead to identity theft or it could even be covered by government regulations like HIPAA. What do you do with all those shreds? Can they be recycled? Shredded paper is tricky. At home, you want to tie it in a plastic bag and hope for the best. It may or may not be recycled, depending on your recycler. They may decide that untying the bag and preparing it isn’t worth the effort. If you’re a business and want to be sure that the large amount shredded paper you produce is recycled, your best bet is to use a commercial paper shredding company. They know how to bale the shreds and get them recycled. Plus, you get a bonus. When you work with an on-site shredding company, they’ll come to your place of business and shred your sensitive documents to the correct standards (including government regulated shredding) right before your eyes. And, they’ll provide locked bins to keep your sensitive documents safe until they arrive. You know you’ve done the right thing for the environment and you don’t have to remove a staple or lose the use of an employee for the tedious job of shredding. It’s a winning answer to getting paper both shredded and recycled.