Paper is Recyclable. So Why Do We Throw It In The Trash?
The largest percentage of our municipal solid waste stream belongs to paper. Paper is indispensible. It serves a variety of purposes – from snail mail to packaging. Fortunately, paper is also one of the world’s most recovered materials because it is easily recyclable and options for recycling paper are often readily available.
Facts on Recycling Paper
- It takes seven days for a recycled newspaper to come back as a newspaper again.
- In 2008, 11 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions were avoided by recycling paper and board. This is equivalent to of taking about 3.5 million cars off the road
Paper Recycling How It Works
- Paper is collected at local recycling sites.
- Paper is graded according to its quality.
- At the paper mill, it goes into a tank which contains chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, caustic soda, soap, and water. This process breaks down paper and separates its fibers.
- Fibers are then screened to remove debris such as staple wires, plastic, paper clips, and sticky tapes.
- In a floatation tank, fibers are cleaned and ink is removed.
- Whitening agents and water are added to the fibers.
- The mixture is then and processed to dry and smoothed on heated rollers.
- Once done, the finished product is then divided to sheets or rolls of paper.
Here are some guides on how to recycle paper materials:
Books and magazines: Magazines are 100 percent recyclable. These reading materials are accepted by many community recycling centers and collection sites in the United States. On the other hand, books are more difficult to recycle because of the glues used to bind them. But you can still find recycling centers around your area o who will reuse or recycle your old books. If you want to turn over hardcover books for recycling, make sure to remove the spine first because of its stiff composition and the adhesive that holds them together. There’s no need to remove the staples because paper mills are set up to remove staples and paper clips from the pulped paper.
Cartons: Cartons used for milk, juice, or soup are all recyclable because they are an excellent source of material to produce tissues, paper towels, and even building materials. Cartons are renewable resources because they are made mainly from paper. Thus, they are very desirable for remanufacturing into new products.
Cardboard: Generally, cardboard is recyclable as long as it is not yet contaminated with food or oil. Although cardboard is biodegradable, it is still better to recycle it if it is still usable. Make sure that the cardboard is not wet or soiled and make sure that the cardboard boxes are flattened before sending them to the recycling center for easier processing.
Gift cards and gift wraps: The amount of waste being generated from gifts, especially during the holiday season, can be a big problem for our landfills. It’s a good thing that gift cards and some forms of gift wrap can be recycled. An organization called Earthworks Systems encourages retailers to send them consumed gift cards for recycling. Gift wraps that do not contain plastics or glitter can be turned over for recycling through curbside programs.
Sheets of paper: Loose pages of paper can be recycled as well. Paper consists of fibers – the longer the fiber, the more useful the paper is during the process of recycling. After a few rounds of recycling, the fibers get shorter and because of this, the end product of the process is tissue or toilet paper. Shredded paper can be recycled but this process shortens the fibers and lowers the grade of the paper from high grade to mixed grade. So when it is not necessary to shred paper, don’t do it. Simply use permanent ink to cover up confidential information (ink does not affect the recycling process) before tossing it in your recycling bin.
How about you? How do you recycle paper? Share your recycling tips with us!