The raw material for making paper is predominantly trees; but it is a common misconception that recycling waste paper saves trees!
Trees for paper making are grown and harvested as a long term crop with new trees planted to replace those cut down. Nearly all paper is made from wood grown in these “sustainable” forests.
The more important environmental issues are:
1. The nature of forests and where they are situated. As the demand for paper has increased, more timber has been needed to meet the demand for wood pulp. In some cases this has meant the loss of valuable wildlife habitats and ecosystems, as old forests have been replaced by managed plantations, usually of fast-growing conifers. The lack of tree species diversity in managed forests has a direct impact on the biodiversity of the whole forest.
2. By using waste paper to produce new paper disposal problems are reduced.
3. Producing recycled paper involves between 28 – 70% less energy consumption than virgin paper and uses less water. This is because most of the energy used in papermaking is the pulping needed to turn wood into paper.
4. Recycled paper produces fewer polluting emissions to air and water. Recycled paper is not usually re-bleached and where it is, oxygen rather than chlorine is usually used. This reduces the amount of dioxins which are released into the environment as a by-product of the chlorine bleaching processes.
5. Paper is a biodegradable material. This means that when it goes to landfill, as it rots, it produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas (20 times more potent than carbon dioxide). It is becoming increasingly accepted that global warming is a reality, and that methane and carbon dioxide emissions have to be reduced to lessen its effects.
Recycling 1 tonne of paper saves:
At least 30000 liters of water.
Between 3000 4000 kWh electricity which is enough for an average 3 bedroom house for a whole year.
2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)