This is great news for our communities and for the environment, but there is more that can be done. Consider your office or home recycling program – is there more you can do to improve your environmental stewardship efforts? Paper recycling is something that everyone can do for the environment and for the future.
• Save enough energy to power the average American home for six months.
• Save 7,000 gallons of water.
• Save 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton (2204 pounds) of carbon equivalent (MTCE).
• About 85 million tons of paper and paperboard.
• Each year, more than 2 billion books, 350 million magazines, and 24 billion newspapers are published.
• The average American uses approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper and wood products per year.
Many of us take for granted that paper allows us not only to enjoy our lives but also to go about our daily routines with greater efficiency. From the thinnest tissue, to the most absorbent diaper, to the toughest corrugated box, there are almost as many different kinds of paper as there are uses for it. Most of us begin our mornings by enjoying the comforts of paper products – from facial tissue and paper towels, to the morning newspaper, to the carton that holds your orange juice, and the paperboard packaging that holds your breakfast cereal.
Our children benefit from paper each school day from classroom drawings and notebook paper to text books that students learn from. At work, office papers help us communicate. Even in this digital age, and despite talk about the “paperless office,” office papers are essential for copiers, laser printers, brochures, notepads, and other uses. And since digital documents can be deleted, there’s nothing like having a back-up on paper.
Wherever we go, paper is there to help at every turn. It’s the bags that hold your groceries or latest clothing purchase. It’s the cards, letters and packages you receive, the cup that holds your coffee, and the album that holds your memories. Even while we sleep, paper is still hard at work providing a host of innovative paper products that help hospitals deliver cleaner, better patient care and protect healthcare personnel. Paper is at work in thousands of industrial and manufacturing applications helping keep the air clean, and providing protective apparel and innovative packaging.
When you consider the tremendous benefit of paper, it’s clear that we must all continue to work together by recycling used paper. Recycling is easy to do, and it’s good for business and the environment. So next time you read the paper, open your mail, clean out your files, or empty a box, don’t put that paper and paperboard packaging in the trash. Complete the circle and recycle it.
In the paper making process, wood is first chipped into small pieces. Then water and heat, and sometimes chemicals, are added to separate the wood into individual fibers. The fiber is mixed with lots of water (and often recycled fiber), and then this pulp slurry is sprayed onto a huge flat wire screen which is moving very quickly through the paper machine. Water drains out, and the fibers bond together. The web of paper is pressed between rolls which squeeze out more water and press it to make a smooth surface. Heated rollers then dry the paper, and the paper is slit into rolls or sheets.
No. Over half of the raw material used to make paper in the U.S. comes from recovered paper and the wood waste (such as wood chips and sawdust) left behind from lumber manufacturing.
According to the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), 57.4 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2008. This significant achievement was made possible by the millions of Americans who recycle at home, work and school every day. In fact, if measured by weight, more paper is recovered for recycling from municipal solid waste streams than all glass, plastic and aluminum combined. Additional good news: every ton of paper recovered for recycling saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
After paper is collected, recovered paper is transferred to a recycling center, or Material Recovery Facility (MRF), where it is sorted into its different grades and “contaminants” such as trash, glass, plastics and metals are removed. Once the recovered paper is properly sorted and free of contaminants, it is compacted into large bales and transported to a paper mill where the recycling process begins.
To begin the papermaking process using recovered fiber, the fiber is shredded and mixed with water to make a pulp. The pulp is washed, refined and cleaned, then turned to slush in a beater. The process of papermaking from that point forward is essentially the same whether or not recovered fiber is used.
As much as 80% of the content of typical recovered paper can actually be used in the recycling process, but 20% cannot. A lot of what’s contained in a bale of recovered “paper” isn’t paper. Other items, such as wire, staples, paper clips, and plastic, must be removed during pulping, cleaning, and screening. Recovered paper contains some fibers which have become too small to be recycled into paper. Recovered paper may contain fibers which already have been recycled one, twice, or perhaps several times. Wood fibers can only be recycled five to seven times before they become too short and brittle to be made into new paper. Recovered paper contains other ingredients which are not paper fibers. Magazines also contain adhesives which bind the pages together. Ink, coatings, and adhesives must be removed from the paper before recycled paper can be produced.
Each time paper is recycled, the fiber length decreases, which impacts its strength. It is estimated that paper has approximately seven generations, meaning it can be recycled up to seven times. Because paper is made from a renewable resource, introducing new, or “virgin” fiber into the process is a logical answer. Today approximately 80 percent of the nation’s paper mills use some recovered fiber in the production of new paper and paperboard products.
Further, the U.S. forest products industry plants an average of 1.7 million trees every day—five new trees for every tree harvested. Thanks to the responsible forestry practices of U.S. companies, the amount of standing timber in U.S. forests has increased by nearly 40 percent over the past half-century and by 10 million acres since 1990.
• The world’s first piece of paper was made from recycled material. Around 200 B.C., the Chinese used old fishing nets to make the world’s very first piece of paper.
• Paper recycling has been around as long as paper itself. Paper companies have always recognized the environmental and economic benefit ts of recycling. In recent years, paper recycling has become popular with everyone as a way to help protect our environment by reusing our resources and conserving landfill space.
• Today, about 87% paper mills in the U.S. recycle some recovered paper. Recovered paper provides over one-third of all the fiber used at U.S. mills.
• More paper is recovered in the United States than is sent to landfills.
• In the U.S., paper accounts for two-thirds of all the packaging material recovered for recycling — more than glass, metal, and plastic combined.
• Recovered paper supplies close to 40% of the fiber used to make all paper and paperboard products in the U.S.
• Every day, U.S. papermakers recycle enough paper to fill a 15-mile long train of boxcars.
• A typical newsprint machine produces as many as 500 tons of paper every day. In the early 21st century, use of recovered paper is projected to grow twice as fast as the use of wood pulp.