Why Should People Recycle Paper?

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Recycling paper is important for many reasons. Our energy supply and space are not unlimited, so recycling paper increases the sustainability of both these and many other important aspects of our environmental impact.

1 Resource Conservation

One of the primary reasons to recycle paper is to conserve resources. The primary product used to make paper is wood pulp. Recycling paper reduces the amount of wood pulp needed, and that in turn, reduces the number of trees that are cut down. Trees are a vital part of a balanced ecosystem. Although many paper manufacturers own land specifically for tree farming and replace cut trees with seedlings for future use, tree growth is very slow. Additionally, there is energy used and pollution created by cutting and transporting the trees to the mill.

2 Landfill Space

Although there is debate regarding whether or not we’re running out of landfill space, there’s little argument about the main component in our landfills: paper. Every ton of paper takes more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), forty percent of landfills’ content is paper. And the proportion of paper in landfills has remained steady over the decades despite the rise of computers and the Internet. Although paper breaks down much easier than plastics and other forms of waste, it does not decompose very readily when compacting in a landfill. According to the EPA’s site, “Research by William Rathje, who runs the Garbage Project, has shown that, when excavated from a landfill, newspapers from the 1960s can be intact and readable.”

3 Incineration Reduction

Besides saving landfill space, when people recycle paper, there’s reduced need for trash incineration. Some municipalities burn trash rather than storing it in landfills. By diverting paper out of the trash stream, there is less to burn, so there’s less need for incinerators and less ash output and air pollution.

4 Energy Conservation

Manufacturing paper from recycled paper fiber requires less energy than making paper from virgin wood pulp. In fact, making recycled paper is estimated to use 60 to 70 percent less energy, and the paper industry is the third largest user of energy in the U.S. In addition to saving energy, recycled paper manufacturing uses about 50 percent less water than its virgin counterpart and significantly reduces water pollution in the process as well.

5 It’s Easy

Recycling paper and paper products is very easy. Current estimates indicate that 86 percent of the American population has access to either curb-side or drop-off recycling. Although not all centers or pick-up services take all types of paper, the majority, if not all, will accept newspapers. Newspapers alone take up over ten percent of the landfill space.

6 It’s Versatile

People should recycle paper because there’s a wide range of products that can be created from recycled paper. Although paper fibers cannot be recycled indefinitely, like glass and aluminum, it is possible to recycle paper fibers about six or seven times. Each time paper is recycled, it becomes a lesser grade but is still a useful product. By the end of the fibers’ usefulness, they can be made into pressboard, tissue or even insulation.

Ann Deiterich has been a writer since 1984 in business-to-business communications, specializing in TQM, business/financial topics, office management and production efficiency. As an environmental proponent, nature and science are her areas of interest. Deiterich holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Albright college and has three expert rating certifications including Grammar, Words/Phrases and Advertising Skills.