Paper is something which we cannot live without in this age. With tremendous improvement in printing technology and high speed mechanized harvesting of wood, paper has become quite cheap. However, the environmental cost that we are forced to pay for paper is quite high. Despite governments around the world imposing several regulations, the paper industry as such is not sustainable.
Environmental Impacts of Conventional Paper:
There is a huge list of adverse effects on our environment due to the paper industry, which environmental activists collectively call ‘paper pollution’. The pulp mills pollute air, water and land. In addition to direct pollution, discarded paper is the single major component of landfill sites across the world. An extensive study says that by weight, paper accounts for about 35 percent of all solid waste disposed of in landfills. While recycling is good, recycling also adds to pollution due to de-inking. We are at an inflection point and it is estimated that by 2020 paper mills around the world will produce over 400,000,000 tons of paper and paperboard. Think about the amount of pollution this will result in.
It is time for us to take a step back and introspect. Paper pollution is the third largest source of industrial pollution that pollutes air, water, and land in both Canada and the United States, and releases well over 100 million kg of toxic pollution each year. Add to this the deforestation; 35% of all harvested trees are used for paper manufacturing. The resulting monoculture also has lasting ecological effects on the ecosystem.
Over 6.5 million trees were cut down to make 16 billion paper cups used by US consumers only for coffee in 2006, using 4 billion US gallons (15,000,000 m3) of water and resulting in 253 million pounds of waste. Overall, North Americans use 58% of all paper cups, amounting to 130 billion cups.
Air and water pollution:
Nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide are all emitted during paper manufacturing. While carbon dioxide is just a greenhouse gas and most industries emit it, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide are the major reasons for acid rain. The wastewater from the paper industry contains organochloro compounds, chlorates, metal compound lignins and several other organic compounds. These organic compounds have very high biological oxygen demand and can destroy the aquatic ecosystem.
Choosing Better Paper Brands For a Better Planet
There are new environmentally responsible paper companies that are focusing on addressing pollution. These environmentally responsible companies have implemented fully sustainable practices. They stop deforestation by solely using wood from plantation forests that are sustainable. These companies avoid bleaching, which often results in the emission of carcinogenic compounds. Such papers are eco-friendly and are called as chlorine free paper. They also have eco-friendly recycling systems in place.
These paper brands also reduce pollution through setting up mechanical paper mills. The wood pulp here is produced primarily by grinding wood. Until recently these mechanical pulping methods were used only for news prints, however, with advanced technology these eco-friendly methods can also be used to produce paper for conventional use. With fewer chemicals used than the kraft or sulfite paper mills, this method is very eco-friendly. Also this mechanical wood pulp is “brightened,” instead of being bleached, so far less toxic chemicals are used.
It goes without saying that we cannot live without paper, but we can choose a better brand of paper and use paper judiciously. This company offers Sustainable Paper Delivered to Your Door that is of extremely good quality and also affordable.