In this new electronic and digitalised age people are starting to use less paper, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go in becoming a paperless dependent society.
The history of paper goes back more than 2000 years to China, where they made first crafted sheets for their drawings and writings. Before that, people communicated through pictures and symbols written on stones, bones, cave walls or clay tablets.
These days, paper is still everywhere around us and most of it is ending in our landfills creating a huge amount of paper waste. In past, paper was a rare and precious commodity. It was initially invented as a tool for communication and to give descendants their knowledge and innovation through written words. Unfortunately, today, paper is used extensively for packaging – to be more precise it became one time used material.
Everything that we are producing involves energy. Production of paper involves cutting trees. Deforestation is one of the biggest environmental problems and 42% of all global cut wood is used to make paper. To make a ton of paper, we have to cut down seventeen trees. India′s paper consumption has grown to 5kg per person in last decades and every year, we have to cut 85 lakhs of trees only to produce enough paper for the whole country. Among highly populated countries, India (population, 1.267 billion) has a tree population of only 35 billion, leading to just 28 trees per person. Compared to Brazil which has 301 billion trees (1,494 per person), Canada 318 billion (8,953 per person), and China 139 billion (102 trees per person). Trees are simply too important for us to cut them down. They give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise soil, decrease air and noise pollution in the cities and more and more. Further, 324 litres of water is needed to make 1 kilogram of paper.
It was predicted that electronic revolution will decrease the usage of paper. That did not really happen. Only the usage of paper changed.
Six centuries old solution –recycling is drastically decreasing environmental impact of paper. Unfortunately and surprisingly, we do not recycle all paper that we produce. In India, we recycled around 50% of all the paper, which tells us that still half of the paper finish as a waste. Out of 10 kilograms of waste paper we get 5 kilograms of recycled paper. This means we have to conserve paper if we want to truly take care of our environment and conserve trees, water and energy.
As I said, Paper companies have found new ways to keep their industry growing. People started to think about huge environmental impacts of plastic and so they started to pack things in paper bags instead, for examples, samosas in paper bags. But, we are not doing much, if we do not segregate and recycle this paper bag.
Recycling is great! It keeps materials in use, reducing the demand for extracting and producing new materials and delaying the time before the materials become waste. But unfortunately that is not enough. See, it goes like that – paper is better than plastic, but no waste is the best! To save trees and other important materials around us we have to not only responsibly take care of the waste but also produce less waste.
There are numbers of ways to reduce our paper waste and lower our carbon footprint.
- Always, think before you print! Nowadays, it is rare that you actually have to print something. Also, smart phones help us to check emails any time. We can even save our notes on computer or phones. If you really have to print something, reduce the font size and print it on both sides.
- Minimize your usage of paper. Re –use one side paper for notes!
- Change your bills to paperless and pay them online or with phone.
- Try to not use paper plates (Also do not use plastic ones!!). Use washable ones!
- Ditch the disposables. Paper napkins and paper towels make up part of paper waste in our homes. Switch to cloth napkins and reusable rags to save money and reduce your carbon footprint.
- Rethink your grocery shopping. A large percentage of paper waste is called paperboard. Start buying more whole, fresh ingredients that do not require packaging and you can use your own reusable bags.
- Recycle whatever you can!
Do you have more ideas on how to reduce paper wastage? Share it with us!
Member of Vatavaran team