Americans use 200 million tons of paper a year -- for everything from daily newspapers to books and cardboard boxes. After a quick use, we throw away at least 100 million tons of paper, almost all of which could be recycled. This means that there's about 8 billion dollars worth of paper out there that can be collected and recycled each year.
Paper is made from cellulose fiber, the source of which can be pulped wood, or a variety of other materials such as rags, cotton, grasses, sugar cane, straw, waste paper, or even elephant dung! Wood pulp is the most common source material for the manufacture of virgin paper, i.e. paper which has no recycled content.
Nowadays, 90% of paper pulp is made of wood and paper manufacturing is estimated to account for nearly 13 percent of total wood use, and represents one percent of the world's total economic output! Recycling 1 metric ton (1,000 kg) of newspaper saves about 12 trees.
Unlike most other materials, paper cannot be recycled over and over again. Eventually the fibers become too weak and short to be used again. That is why virgin paper fiber is usually mixed with recycled paper when new paper products are made.
Although the raw material for making paper is predominantly trees, it is a common misconception that recycling paper saves trees. These are grown for commercial use and harvested as a long term crop with new trees planted to replace those cut down.
For every metric ton of paper recycled the savings are:
- at least 30,000 liters of water
- 28 - 70% less energy or about 3,000 - 4,000 KWh electricity (enough for an average 3 bedroom house for one year)
- fewer polluting emissions to air (95% of air pollution)
- reduced paper disposal and greenhouse gas emission problems
Some very creative people have found ingenious ways to recycle or reuse paper, such as The Smencil Company. They manufacture pencils made from rolled sheets of 100% recycled newspaper instead of wood. These sharpen the same as wood pencils, smell great and are good for the environment.
In manufacturing Smencils, they use recycled newspapers, environmentally friendly fragrances, recyclable ferrules and biodegradable erasers. Even the packaging is environmentally friendly and 172,000 Smencils can be made from 430 newspapers.
The pencils are available in bubble gum, cherry, cinnamon, grape, pineapple, fruit punch, peppermint, water melon, and root beer and orange.
The manufacturing process is as follows:
- Sheets of newspaper are rolled tightly around #2 graphite writing cores until pencils of typical thickness are formed.
- Then they're hardened - allowing them to be sharpened just like wood pencils.
- Next, they are soaked with a gourmet liquid scents (made by an award
winning fragrance company).
- Once they're dry, erasers are attached and stickers applied to identify which scent was infused.
- Lastly, each one is put into its own Freshness Tube which maintains their scent for 2 years.