We don’t really give it a second thought before tearing another piece of paper after we crumbled up the first one to throw it in the dustbin. We go on printing one small paragraph till we get a perfect print. We don’t even bother when we use one full sheet of paper to write a small thing and even leave the backside unused. After the discovery of printing press during the renaissance period and development of highly mechanized technology for harvesting of wood, paper has become a really cheap commodity. I believe that is one of the reasons why people have started taking it for granted and are ignoring the severe environmental impact of such a large scale wastage of paper. It is used everywhere, from schools to offices to homes. For exams, for advertisements, currency notes, for books and files, for painting and well what not! You might not want to believe it but the world uses one million tons of paper every day. The production and use of paper has led to a number of adverse effects on the environment which are together known as paper pollution. I my article I am going to talk about them and what all things we need to do to minimize the wastage of paper.
Do you know that 93% of the paper that we use comes from trees alone and we call that virgin paper? In the past forty years the overall consumption of paper across the world has risen to 400%, with almost 35% harvested trees being used for paper making. Also, for the production of one ton of paper, 2-3 times its weight in trees, 90,000 liters of water and 1.2 tons of coal and plenty of toxic chemicals are required. Are not these statistics alarming enough? We all are well aware of the fragile condition of our environment and we know the impact of deforestation. However, it is surprising that we fail to realize the same when we go on wasting paper like anything. Apart from all this, the used paper poses to be an equally big problem. More than half of the waste that the municipals pick up is paper. Also, huge land areas are required to dispose this wasted paper. Paper mills contribute to air, water and land pollutions. In fact, the paper industry is the third largest polluter in the world. And we thought that it is the safe for environment? So it is. But since the need and production has increased so much and is bound to increase in future, it now poses to be a problem. Paper waste in addition to being large in amount is also toxic because of the presence of toxic ink, dyes and polymers that can be potentially carcinogenic when combined with water or buried in landfills. The waste water that these pulp and paper mills discharge contains all sort of solid, nutrients and dissolved organic matter such as lignin. This waste when discarded in fresh water can be very dangerous to marine life in that water body and the humans who consume water from that source. Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous contaminate fresh water bodies like lakes and rivers. Organic matter when dissolved in water changes ecological characteristics of that water body and may even lead to death of higher living organisms thus disturbing the ecosystem. Use of sulfur and sulfur compounds are also a matter of worry for our environment. Processes in the pulp industry leads to formation of sulfur dioxide as a waste product, which is one of the major reasons for the formation of acid rain. And adding to all these harms, the pulp industry is also the third largest consumer of energy amongst all other industries. So perhaps, paper production after all is not as environmental friendly as we would like to believe.
So while recycling of paper stays where it is, it is very important for us to know that even recycling of paper has its own share of harms and energy requirements. So what other solution do we have but to reduce the usage of paper and trust me it is not that difficult. You just need to take care of a few things to ensure a healthier and more sustainable environment. You can change small things in your life like using the cloth napkins and towels instead of the paper variety. Instead of using new envelopes, use the ones you received for you bills, all you need to do is to hide the name of the company. You can easily do that by either painting it or sticking another piece of wasted paper on it. Use technology to the fullest that is, you can email, message stuff you don’t really need to send as letters. You can save files in your computer that you don’t really need to print. Simply pay your bills online rather than opting for getting them in your mailbox. Use reusable, washable utensils rather than going for paper plates and glasses. Well, this might appear to be weird but what if you can reuse the wrapping paper for gift wrapping stuff. You just need to be a little careful when unwrapping and the sheet will be good for reuse. Apart from this, well you bibliomaniacs must have collected hell lot of books at your homes. However, once read, those books become absolutely useless other than being dust eating objects. Why waste so much of paper? Better just grab a library card of the nearest library and go there to read books. You’ll save a lot of paper this way. Paper is a great asset to us if used properly, then why should we go around making it a problem for us? Anything used in excess is harmful and so is paper. So let us contribute the little we can towards saving paper and saving environment.