When computers became widely used, first by businesses and then by the general population, the habit of excessive printing simply exploded. One finds hundreds upon hundreds of newspapers and magazines distributing useless information such as celebrity-related gossip; the same images and trivia being portrayed as news can be found daily in dozens of tabloids. Anything from fashion products to political rants and propaganda is laid out on high quality paper.
When weighing that against the real need to preserve the world’s forests and other sources paper can be derived from, the only conclusion we can come to is that of unjustified waste. If people are not culturally elevated enough to boycott such publications altogether, they should at least be sensible enough to recycle them.
All sorts of paper printings being sent to people’s homes are of no actual use and are regularly thrown away immediately, such as advertising flyers, catalogues, political flyers and so forth. In fact, political campaigns go through enormous amounts of paper for products which are intended for an immediate finality and in the long run are yet another massive waste.
The average consumer can notice that cardboard is constantly being used for packaging objects of all sizes, particularly electronics, from mobile phones to larger items such as hoovers and home use exercising equipment, for protection purposes. In fact, a great percentage of non-perishable items sold in shops are bound to come in a cardboard box. On an individual level, at the end of the day, the result is a pile of boxes in every home, one for every deviceacquired. On an industrial scale, the problem is, of course, far greater. Although it is biodegradable, cardboard is quite voluminous and takes a lot of space when taken to landfill.
Reducing one’s paper consumption and especially the amount you send to landfill can be done in a number of ways, starting with favouring recycled paper products. The exact percentage of recycled paper in each product should be indicated somewhere on its label and can become a criterion in your daily shopping choices. When using a printer, both sides of every sheet of paper should be used, which is also more practical. In this day and age, when information can easily be accessed online for free, you can also give up the habit of buying newsprint when the online option is available. All blank pages can be torn from old notebooks and used for writing notes on. And whatever you cannot reuse, you should recycle – with the mention of being cautious with sensitive information, such as letters from your bank, documents containing personal details and so on.
Paper is generally stored in bins with narrow rectangular apertures or in mixed recyclable bins, together with other recyclables (whilst office paper bins tend to be made from cardboard). It is then referred to as post-consumer paper. It is highly indicated for the paper not to be contaminated, especially with organic substances such as grease. Also, it cannot be laminated or combined with plastic, or any other material. That is why office paper and newsprint (newspapers and magazines) are an excellent choice for this process. Gummed paper is not always recyclable (for instance envelopes) and one must check that the collection point is adequate for it.
Mixed paper. The largest and most varied category is referred to as mixed as it comprises many types of paper, from wrapping paper to some envelopes, flyers, business cards, magazines and newspapers etc.
Office paper: Office paper is highly favoured as it is premier quality, usually clean and neatly organised. Offices are known for constantly going through substantial amounts of white printing paper, most of which is only temporarily of use. Staples needn’t be removed before dropping it off at a collection point, yet dirty, coloured or lower grade paper cannot be mixed in.
Magazines: All magazines can be recycled (unless contaminated with oil, food etc.), which is good news since some publications are almost futile in their printed format, now that they can be accessed online as well, with no charges.
Newspapers: Newspapers were the first type of paper to be recycled and have been for many decades. Their structure makes them easily to collect and recycle, as there are no contaminating items to remove, which is the case with some other paper products.
Phone directories: Phonebooks are recycled according to the glue used for their binding, as a certain type is soluble in water, whilst another type is a contaminant. It is highly advisable to recycle them where suitable, due to their bulk and the amount of paper used for each edition.
Cardboard: Cardboard is not always collected in residential areas, meaning councils don’t necessarily accept it in the paper bin or provide a separate bin for it. Yet collection points can be found. Although many boxes can be reused, especially of larger sizes, when damaged or no longer of use, it is recommendable not to send bulky cardboard packaging to landfill.
In order to be recycled into brand new products, paper is first collected from individuals or businesses (then referred to as post-consumer paper). As different paper grades are always stored together in the same bins, the next step is sorting them into according to the categories they belong to. Then the paper is taken to recycling plants (also known as paper mills), where it is chemically and mechanically processed until pulp is obtained. The pulp however still contains impurities, such as ink; therefore a complex purification process follows in order to eliminate all contaminants. Once the pulp is cleaned, it is once again suitable as primary matter for manufacturing a variety of paper-based products.
Regular publications such as newspapers and magazines often use recycled paper, in order to avoid paper waste through the sheer mass of issues produced and sold. Items classed as junk mail are often made from recycled paper as well, which is also used for business cards, stamps and calendars. It is often chosen for the production of stationery products such as office paper, notebooks, calendars, envelopes or paper craft materials. The food industry uses it as well for items such as paper bags or egg cartons. It is also preferred for making a range of disposable products such as tissues, toilet paper or paper towels, which makes sense compared to using raw materials.
Phonebooks are usually recycled into new phonebook editions, due to the particular type of paper they employ, which is why they constitute a separate category altogether. Recycled paper is also used by the construction industry as construction paper, lost insulation etc. Recycled cardboard is customarily used for packaging but also as part of stationery items (notebook covers, calendars etc.). Other common products are shredded paper, construction paper, wrapping paper, wallpaper and so forth.
The benefits of recycling paper
The benefits of recycling paper are numerous. Aside from being fairly easy to recycle and then use for manufacturing other products, when taken to landfill, paper releases methane, which is a pollutant, as well as carbon dioxide when burned as a way of disposal. Avoiding an excessive production of these gasses is very important in maintaining a suitable balance. Increasing concerns have also arisen with regards to preserving forests, therefore the need to reduce paper consumption is pressing. Most post-consumer paper can be recycled up to eight times, therefore, if more paper is recycled, that would greatly reduce the use of raw materials (each ton of paper recycled equals saving 17 trees).
Did You Know?
According to Defra, each person in England produced an average of 457 Kilograms of waste in 2009-10. Of this, an average of about 181 Kilograms per person was recycled. That left 60% of un-recycled waste, at an average of 276 kilograms per person.