Since the first paper was made from the stem of the papyrus plant by the Ancient Egyptians, it has become one of life's most essential items for people all around the world. However, out of the more than 11 million tonnes of paper that is used in the UK alone every year, around 5 million tonnes ends up being dumped in landfill sites across the country.
Although the vast waste of paper products is of enormous environmental concern, there are actually three stages in the paper making process that have significant negative implications on the world around us. More than 30 million acres of trees primarily from old growth forests, are harvested from all around the world to supply the 300 million tonnes of paper needed for the global demand.
Timber for Paper
The logging of trees for paper has a drastic affect on the plants, animals and people that inhabit the area, but this is only the start of the process. It requires vast amounts of water to produce paper (it is the third largest industrial user of water), and highly toxic chemicals are also often added such as chlorine compounds that are used to bleach the paper white.
It is estimated that more than 200 million tons of hazardous substances are released into the air and water every year, with paper production being ranked the fourth largest industrial emitter of greenhouse gases. Although the situation is improving due Clean Air and Water Acts, there is a great deal that can be done by consumers to ensure that there is less waste.
By buying printing paper and envelopes that contain at least 30% recycled materials, and household products such as toilet roll and tissues that use 100% recycled paper means that fewer trees need to be logged, whilst looking for the FSC logo on paper products helps to promote more sustainably managed forests all around the world.