Paper is an essential material that is manufactured from trees. In the modern world, it is a very important material that is used in learning institutions for writing as well as reading published material such as books and newspapers. A lot of papers are wasted after being used. Most of it comes from newspapers that are published on a daily basis and once read are burned, used to wrap other items or simply thrown away in garbage pits. Research shows that newspapers equivalent to 30,000 hectares of trees each year (Earthworks Group, 1990). Students in learning institutions also contribute to the heaps of paper that get into the garbage pits day in day out. This is normally a threat to the environment especially if the papers are left to be blown away by wind which spreads them all over the land. On the other hand, disposal by burning contributes to the green house gases that end up destroying the important Ozone layer. Destroying paper creates a vacuum that must be filled through manufacturing more paper from trees. This contributes to global warming since the reduction in the number of trees reduces the ability of forests in carbon sequestration as well as their contribution to rainfall.
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Paper recycling is significant to the environment in two distinct ways. These include; natural resources conservation and reduction in green house gases. It is also an important way of reducing wastage of materials that could otherwise be recycled to save money.
Recycling of paper to conserve natural resources
Recycling paper saves forests from destruction. This is because the more the papers disposed, the more the number of trees needed to manufacture more papers. Research has shown that if the half of the paper used globally would be recycled, 8 million hectares of trees could be saved ((Earthworks Group, 1990). This is a significant amount of forest land that has the capability of conserving water resources as well as helping to curb soil erosion. Trees play a significant role in water conservation. Forests attract rainfall. After falling in the forest, they further aid in the percolation of water in to the ground water aquifers which release the water progressively in to surface water bodies. This ensures the continuity of streams and rivers which are a vital natural resource for human existence. If trees are felled in masses as raw materials for paper manufacturing, percolation of rain water in to the ground water aquifers will not be achieved hence the eventual drying up of streams, endangering the life of humans. It is therefore necessary to recycle paper in order to conserve water resources.
Trees assist in reducing soil erosion. Once rain falls, trees aid in controlling the surface movement of the rain water. This ensures that soil fertility is maintained which is also an essential component for human existence. Recycling of paper ensures that trees are not harvested unnecessarily. When harvested in masses, surface run-off increases and eventually ends up transporting tons of soil in to surface water bodies. This soil accumulates in rivers and dams causing flash floods which may cause a calamity if it persists. It is therefore necessary to recycle paper in order to prevent exposure of natural resources to such undesirable situations.
Recycling paper reduces the net solid waste that is introduced in to the environment. This is a significant service to the environment since the sludge ends up choking the soil as well as causing water pollution once papers get access in to water reservoirs and rivers. Recycling of paper products reduces solid waste emanating from paper by 10% (Dallas, 2008).
Air and water pollution occurs in land fills and incinerators where papers are disposed. Recycling paper helps to steer clear of discharge of methane and several other pollutants. It also helps in reducing establishment of further landfills. Paper recycling helps in reduction of the pressure on land in order to satisfy the demand for trees for paper production. This pressure leads to the conversion of land that should otherwise be left in its natural state. This includes wetlands and natural forests being converted into tree plantations for paper production. These should be left intact since they provide a natural habitat for natural flora and fauna.
Recycling paper produces organic paper products that are biodegradable. These are important in the improvement of soil structure. They are important in soil moisture protection weed and pests control, preservation of pants as well as various uses in organic farming and landscaping. It has also generally been proved that the process of producing virgin paper from wood consumes much water than recycled paper. On the other hand, waste water from production of virgin paper contains more pollutants than recycled paper.
Recycling of paper to reduce green house gases
Green house gases are a major threat to the Ozone layer. This is an essential layer of gas that protects the earth from excessive solar radiation which is a threat to life on earth. Destruction of the Ozone layer has caused global warming which has raised international concerns. Carbon dioxide is the major green house gas that has caused this problem. Trees play a significant role in reducing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while they use it in photosynthesis. Harvesting trees to be used in paper production reduces carbon sequestration in the atmosphere hence increasing the amount of carbon that reaches the Ozone layer. Paper recycling helps in reducing the number of trees harvested yearly hence a reduction in the effect of carbon dioxide.
Land fills and incinerators are a major source of methane that emanates from decomposition of paper. Methane is a green house gas that is also associated with global climate change. Reduction of land fills through paper recycling is important in reducing methane emissions in to the atmosphere. Recycling of paper reduces green house gases emission by reducing the emissions that occur in the process of virgin paper production. This is because the industrial processes use energy obtained from burning of fossil fuels such as petroleum products and coal. These produce green house gases that end up into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2007).According to Earthworks (1990), “In one year, one acre of trees take away five tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere”. Recycling paper therefore is very important in order to save the word from the climate change menace. In developed countries, a lot of green house gases are produced by motor vehicle driving. Earthworks, (1990) established that “A single tree can clear out green house gases produced by a car over a distance of 11,000 kilometers in one year”. Recycling paper to divert materials from disposalProduction of paper costs money and the ultimate user of paper spends money to buy paper. It is therefore logical under all circumstances to ensure that all the money spent on purchasing these papers does not end up in landfills when paper is disposed. More than 30 million trees are thrown away as newspapers in America each year (Earthworks, 1990). This is a large number of trees which could otherwise be put in to other important uses. Recycling of paper would reduce the number of trees going to waste through disposal in to land fills and incinerators. In the United Kingdom, 5.4 million tons of newsprints are recovered each year to be used in making more newsprint (Michael, 1991).There is a ready market worldwide, which is a strong point to support paper recycling. Each time a person throws paper in to a landfill, it is important to understand that the disposal is not only the visible material that is disposed, but there is also a monetary value attached to it. This is very important, especially for the countries that are facing economic quagmire. Waste paper can be diverted from disposal to provide employment in recycling industries. Unemployed people can be engaged in collection and delivering them to paper industries. This is a development created from material that would have otherwise ended up posing a risk to human life. Disposal of paper leads to use of resources to produce new paper. If the paper could be recycled, the materials as well as the energy required to produce the new paper would not be used. It is therefore necessary for every one to understand that disposing papers is equivalent to disposing energy and materials that are used to produce new papers. Economically, this is not a prudent decision, since under the prevailing economic conditions; all activities should be geared towards utilizing the scarce natural resources for maximum benefits to humans. In the United Kingdom, paper recycling is very has proved to be very important to the economy. On recycling paper, the United Kingdom does not import pulp. This helps to save on balance of payment by up to 800 million (Newman, 1994)ConclusionPaper recycling is an important practice that could help in alleviating the problem of environmental pollution caused by green house gases emissions. These emissions are the major contributors to climate change, a phenomenon which has cost a lot of money worldwide as governments try to curb the problem of global warming. Paper recycling is also important in conservation of natural resources such as trees, water and biodiversity. These are important in maintenance of the natural systems. Recycling is also of utmost importance in diverting materials destined for disposal. This can be used as an avenue for employment creation in recycling industries especially at this time when many countries are facing the problem of unemployment globally.
- Earthworks Group. The Recycler’s Handbook. Berkeley, CA: Earthwork Press, 1990. pp. 4-9
- Envirocycle, 2008. Environmental Protection: Benefits of using Recycled and Organic Paper Products. Dallas, TX: Author.
- Michael H. “Throwing Money into Garbage Pits.” Newsweek 27 Nov. 1991. p. 12
- Newman J. Facts About Paper Recycling. New York: Wilson, p. 27
- United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2007. “Environmental Benefits of Recycling.” Ed. Steven Rinaldi. 19 Sept. 2008. <http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dshw/recycle/env_benefits.htm>