Today, we all place a huge emphasis on paper recycling at home, at school and at work. This is a good thing as recycling paper saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, conserves natural resources and frees up landfill space for other trash that can’t be recycled.
Even though we live in a digital age, where the majority of us conduct our communications by phone or email, we’re still using an inordinate amount of paper. In fact, people in the U.S. use more than twice as much paper now as we did 20 years ago!
Recycling paper involves reprocessing waste paper so it can be reused. The majority of this waste paper comes from our home recycling bins and paper mill scraps. Paper is a material that is very easy to recycle so we should all make an effort to participate.
Why is it So Important to Recycle Paper?
Paper is made of trees, and the average person in the U.S. today uses seven trees per year in paper and wood products. This amounts to a massive, and frightening 2,000,000,000 trees per year that are cut down for our own needs. This negatively impacts upon our climate, as well as destroying the natural habitats of so many animals and plant species.
It’s true that you can get many paper products that are made from sustainably-managed sources. And this is good. However, the making of all paper takes up a lot of resources in terms of water and energy. Therefore recycling the existing paper you have is more ethically sound than just throwing it in the trash.
What are the Benefits of Paper Recycling?
There are considerable environmental factors that make paper recycling an important thing to do. These include:
Helping the environment. It’s too easy to assume that your contribution to recycling paper is small and that it doesn’t have a significant impact on the environment. However, if everyone thought like that, nothing would ever be done. Together, as a country we’re taking huge steps to maintain high recycling figures, that in turn, can improve the environment.
According to the University of Southern Indiana, the amount of paper and wood we discard, on an annual basis, is enough to heat 50,000,000 houses for two decades. So, it’s imperative that we, as a country, recycle all the paper we throw away, rather than sending it to landfill. Recycling paper also reduces greenhouse gas emissions that can contribute to climate change.
Reducing waste. An obvious benefit to paper recycling is that it reduces the amount of waste that goes to landfill, so that the garbage that can’t be recycled will be put there instead.
Reducing water and energy consumption. As stated earlier, recycling your old paper makes for a reduction in water and energy consumption.
Uses of Recycled Paper. There are many new products that can be made with recycled paper, including the following items:
- Office paper
- Toilet paper
- Greeting cards
- Paper towels
- Paperboard cracker and cereal boxes
- Egg cartons
- Grocery bags
- Loft insulation, and more
Cardboard that’s recycled can make –
- Animal bedding
- Eco-friendly coffins (yes, really!), and more
What Types of Paper Can You Recycle?
There are many different types of paper that can be recycled, including –
- All office paper
- Colored paper
- White paper
- Junk mail
- Tissue boxes
- Paper towel tubes
- Toilet roll tubes
- Unwaxed food packaging
- Paper drink cartons
- Shredded paper – however as shredding paper shortens the fibers, and lowers the grade of the paper, some recyclers may not take it
- Soft-cover books
- Paper coffee cups with the lids removed
What Types of Paper Can’t (or Shouldn’t) You Recycle?
Contrary to popular belief, not all types of paper are recyclable for various reasons, including the fact that they’ve already been recycled. Paper types that typically shouldn’t be placed into your recycling bin include:
- Wax paper
- Wrapping paper
- Paper towels
- Tissue paper
- Any paper contaminated with bodily fluids, food, grease or oil
- Wet paper
Always check with your recycling removal provider to know what items can and cannot be recycled.
How is Paper Recycled?
Now you know about everything you can and can’t recycle, you might be wondering about the actual recycling process.
There are various different regional collection systems for collecting paper for recycling, including office-based collection, school-based programs, drop-off centers, and curbside programs.
After collection, the paper is transferred to a Material Recovery Facility or to a recycling center. Then, any contaminants such as metals, plastics, and glass are removed. Once this is done, the paper is secured in bales, and then transported to a paper mill.
At the paper mill, the paper fiber is then shredded and mixed with water to create a pulp. This is then cleaned, washed, and refined, and turned into slush. After this, additives and dyes are mixed in, the slush is pumped onto a huge moving screen, where the water is then drained away and recycled.
You’re then left with a paper sheet called a web, and the web is then pressed between huge rollers to extract any water that might be left, and to smooth the paper down to a uniform thickness.
The next step in the process is to run the web through specially heated dryer rollers, then the paper is wound into rolls, that are sometimes as wide as 30 feet. It’s then time for the final step, as the paper is cut into manageable rolls, ready for use.
Paper Recycling Facts
If you’re wondering about the facts, and figures of paper recycling, you’ll be amazed by these statistics from the Brigham Young University Idaho
- 500,000 trees need to be used to produce the Sunday newspapers each week.
- If you recycled just one solitary run of the Sunday New York Times, it would save an amazing 75,000 trees.
- If every single person in the country recycled just one tenth of their newspapers, 25,000,000 trees per year would be saved.
- On average, an entire household will throw 13,000 sheets of paper – mostly from junk mail and packaging – into the trash.
Paper Recycling Terminology
There are lots of terms relating to recycling that you might not be familiar with, for your information, here are some of the most popularly used –
Recycling – this is the name of the process of creating new products from ones that have been previously used.
Paper recovery – the collection of already used paper.
Mixed paper – recovered paper that includes, paperboard, paper bags, junk mail, magazines, and newspapers.
Recovery rate – this is the term for the percentage of used paper products that are recovered for recycling purposes.
Old newspapers (ONP) – as the name suggests, this is the term used for old newspapers that are often used to make recycled paperboard, tissue, and newsprint.
Old Magazines (OMG) – used magazines that can be made into paperboard, writing paper, tissue, and newsprint.
Old Corrugated (Cardboard) Containers (OCC) – this describes used corrugated cardboard containers that are most often turned into shipping boxes.
Recycling bin – containers dotted around schools, workplaces, and communities that are used for collecting recyclables.
Baler – equipment that is used for compressing used corrugated cardboard containers into cubes.
Roll carts – large wheeled bins for recycling in the community.
Pay As You Throw Recycling – a system of recycling that for a small fee will collect your used recyclables.
Curbside recycling – a system of collection where you put your recyclables in a container or bin at your curbside for scheduled pick up.
Single-stream recycling – this curbside collection method doesn’t require you to separate your recyclables before they’re taken away.
Dual-stream recycling – similar to single-stream recycling, this method requires you to separate paper from other recyclables before they get taken away.
Drop-off recycling – these are community-based programs that require you to separate, and then drop off your recyclables to a special site.
How You Can Find a Place to Recycle Your Paper
When you’re looking for somewhere to recycle your old paper you can contact your local public works department for details. Also, the website Earth 911 has a very handy recycling locator that you can use to figure out where in your area will accept your used paper. Simply click here to find out more.
So, now you know all about paper recycling, it’s benefits, and what you can actually recycle. It’s shocking to realize that packaging and paper still make up a large proportion of the trash that gets sent to landfill, and we can change all that.
Our human needs for paper are essential; however, we all need to play our part in keeping ourselves focused on being friendly to the earth, and its resources. This is why it’s so incredibly important to do all you can. Not to just recycle paper, but to recycle all that you possibly can, as well as reusing items wherever possible.
Getting into the habit of recycling is easy, and once started, will become second nature to you, and your family. Also, getting your kids started early, and taught all about the earth, and its problems, will ensure that they become the recyclers, not only of today, but of the future too.
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