The Good, Bad and Ugly Paper Products Part 2

I wanted to expand a bit more on what makes most paper products like napkins, toilet paper, paper towels and facial tissue not just bad, but downright ugly.  One of the bad things is the amount of energy and water used to make virgin paper products.  Here’s a quote I came across from the University of Colorado’s Environmental Center which states:

  • One ton of recycled paper saves 3,700 pounds of lumber and 24,000 gallons of water.
  • One ton of recycled paper uses: 64% less energy, 50% less water, 74% less air pollution, saves 17 trees and creates 5 times more jobs than one ton of paper products from virgin wood pulp.
  • Recycling 1 ton of paper saves 17 trees (35’ tall), 2 barrels of oil (enough fuel to run the average car for 1260 miles or from Dallas to Los Angeles), 4100 kilowatts of energy (enough power for the average home for 6 months), 3.2 cubic yards of landfill space (one family size pick-up truck) and 60 pounds of air pollution. (Trash to Cash, 1996)
  • It takes one 15-year old tree to produce half a box of paper. Use both sides of all paper. (Midpoint International)
  • Recycled paper saves 60% energy vs. virgin paper (Center for Ecological Technology

Wow!  That sort of puts things into perspective.  You are literally flushing trees and energy down your toilet along with water.  Not to mention the pollution going up in the air.  It is one thing to raise trees to cut down to build homes and make durable goods, but the make disposable goods out of trees really is downright ugly.  Plus there are good economic reasons to buy recycled, more jobs that are truly sustainable.

The other ugly part of most virgin paper is the bleaching process that is used. The chlorine bleaching process creates waste-water that contains hazardous organic compounds, one particularly nasty one is dioxin.  Dioxin has been associated with cancer, liver damage, endocrine disrupting, birth defects and a long list of bad things in studies.  You can read more about dioxin at this link Dioxin facts from the CDC.  There are other ways to bleach paper that don’t pose the health risks associated with chlorine bleaching; oxygen, hydrogen peroxide and ozone.  I hope this helped to explain more about the negative effects of non-recycled paper products.  I actually look for recycled paper in everything; greeting cards, stationary, calendars, copier paper, school notebooks, and folders.  The next time you are in need of any sort of paper product see if you can find it recycled.

University of Colorado Recycling Facts