With the continued reliance on and development of electronic communication systems, you would think our paper usage would be decreasing. Surprisingly, this is not the case and demand for paper products is higher than ever. Paper is still widely used for writing letters, notes, printing, magazines, newspapers, cardboard and packing. It is one of the most important and widely used consumer materials, with 2007-2008 seeing Australians use 4,250,000 tonnes of paper. Its versatility makes it a valuable resource – all the more reason why it should be recycled.
Paper’s environmental impactTo convert raw materials into paper products requires a variety of production processes, including mechanical, chemical, bleaching and pulping. These processes consume large amounts of energy and require precious natural resources, including trees and water. To produce just one tonne of paper, it takes 20 full-grown trees and more than 90,000 litres of water. This causes 1.46 tonnes of greenhouse gases to be emitted.
When paper is wasted…The average office worker will throw out approximately 50 kilograms of high-grade paper every year – the equivalent of 10,000 sheets of paper. This amounts to Australians sending 1.9 million tonnes of paper to landfill every year, most of which could have been recycled. When paper goes to landfill, it produces dangerous greenhouse gases during decomposition. These gases include methane, a major greenhouse gas with a global warming capacity 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. It also takes up landfill space, which the country is rapidly running out of.
When paper is recycled…Manufacturing paper and cardboard from recycled material can conserve up to 13 trees per tonne of paper. It also uses up to 50 percent less energy and 90 percent less water.
Producing one tonne of recycled paper saves:
- 31,780 litres of water
- 4,100 kilowatts of electricity
- 75 percent of chlorinated bleach
- 27 kilograms of air pollutants
- 13-24 trees
- 4 cubic metres of landfill
- 2.5 barrels of oil