Is Recycling Really Better For The Environment? Part 1: Paper

This is the first part of our “Is Recycling Really Better For The Environment” series and today we are going to talk about recycling paper and answer the question of weather or not recycling paper is better for the environment or not. With that said, et me first start by saying YES, YES and Absolutely YES! I am not sure where people are getting these ideas that recycling is worse for the environment, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, of course I can't just make that claim without presenting some sort of evidence to back up my claim, so let me just say that this next blog post is going to be a pretty long. In fact, I will be splitting this post into several different sections each dealing with a different material.

Part 1: Recycling Paper Is Better For The Environment!

When talking about recycling any type of material, a key term that will always show that recycling is better is Source Reduction. Source reduction is a direct result of recycling and affect the entire life cycle of the product. As it relates to paper, when you reduce the use of new paper, you are also reducing the negative environmental effects of producing that new paper.

When a forest is cut down to produce paper, not only is pollution produced form the use of diesel machinery, but when the wood is turned into pulp, it releases all of the CO2 that it has spent its entire life storing. Although trees are considered carbon neutral because they are only releasing the carbon that they have absorbed, the CO2 released from the erosion of the top soil is not carbon neutral because that topsoil loss would not have happened otherwise.

Now, lets first take a look at new paper production vs. recycled paper production using simple logic before we get into numbers and empirical data.

As you can see, recycled paper has a much more environmentally friendly life cycle than new virgin paper. Now lets take a look at some actual CO2 numbers:

Type Of Paper
CO2 per lb.

Virgin paper 0% post-consumer recycled
7.14

33% post-consumer recycled
6.06

50% post-consumer recycled
5.50

66% post-consumer recycled
5.20

100% post-consumer recycled
3.90

The figures above have been taken from an extensive study done by the Environmental Defense, on paper production and publishing. If you wish to read the entire report please follow this link to the Paper Task Force Report at the Environmental Defense website.

As you can see 100% recycled paper is almost twice as efficient as virgin paper and releases almost half of the CO2 emissions as well. Now this is not even taking into consideration the loss of forests due to clear cutting and all of the environmental effects which happen as a result.

So, whats the moral of this story? Recycle, Recycle, Recycle… Its not hard, just put a recycle bin next your trash can and throw recyclables in that bin instead of the trash bin.

Now checkout Part 2: Plastics

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