PAPER AND CARDBOARD

PAPER AND CARDBOARD

It’s impossible not to see it everywhere – in the street, in the parks, on the side of country roads, on your desk, through your pockets. It’s cheap and can be used for almost anything imaginable. Paper degrades fast and from this point of view does not pollute (too) much, but instead eats up an essential natural resource: not the trees, but water.
 
To make paper you need to use more water, per weight equivalent, than for any other product – about 325 liters of water are used to make a single kilogram of paper! It’s true that trees are felled to harvest raw materials, but this isn’t the main environmental threat – the sources used to make paper are mostly scraps like sawdust. Also, paper production pollutes the air and water flows by releasing extremely hazardous materials into the environment, like various chlorine and sulphur compounds, heavy metals like mercury, as well as toxic gases.
 
How are they recycled?
 
Easy: by shredding it and breaking it down in a mixture of warm water and various chemicals that eliminate inks, impurities, glue (in the case of bound paper like books), and other materials (like metal clips). Paper waste is sorted beforehand into several quality grades – from office paper (the highest grade) to the molded pulp packaging used for egg cartons.

The purified melted mixture is then treated with various chemicals, according to its post-recycling intended use, and the resulting material is formed into very large paper sheets that are left to dry. These are then rolled into large rolls and transported to printing houses, packaging manufacturers, etc.
 
What are the advantages of recycling?
 
The waste deposits that disfigure the surroundings of our towns are filled with scrap paper and cardboard. At least a third of all the waste we generate is paper. It degrades quickly, but the thorniest problem is that humans use a lot of it. Current estimates show that the paper industry will produce in 2020 around 500 million tons of paper per year just to meet demand, up from about 400 million tons at the present time.
 
Even paper recyclers face environmental challenges. Modern technologies have all but eliminated the use of toxic substances like chlorine, but currently there is no paper recycling technology that is 100% environmentally friendly. But, in comparison to making paper out of virgin cellulose from natural sources, recycling is a much more environmentally friendly solution: air pollution is reduced by about 74%, while water pollution by about 35%. One ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, saving over 26 tons of water and almost 1.8 tons of fuel.
 
Paper has a short life span; higher grades like office paper can be recycled for 5-7 times at most, after which the cellulose fibers become too short; at this stage, the recycled product is commonly used for egg cartons. On the other hand, cardboard is made of short fibre cellulose and can be recycled multiple times.
 
What can I recycle?
 
Almost any kind of paper and cardboard, with a few exceptions. The recycling process can eliminate inks, staples, clips, the glue in book bindings, but not oils. This is why soiled paper and cardboard cannot be recycled. Also, wax paper, paper covered with plastic film (such as the covers of glossy magazines), napkins or… other used sanitary paper products cannot be recycled. Milk and juice cartons are recycled separately (see Tetra Pak recycling).
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