Paper products serve a purpose in most aspects of your life, from the magazine you read to the carton containing the eggs you eat for breakfast to the bill you receive in the mail. Even with its widespread use, paper materials are some of the most easily and most often recycled.
The percentage of paper in the waste stream has remained constant.
Despite the rise of new materials, paper generation has hovered around 33 percent of the total municipal waste from 1960 to 2007. The amount is more, but the percentage has remained constant. In other words, recycling has kept up with the generation.
Recycling paper has multiple environmental benefits.
If you recycle your paper products and cardboard, your contribution to every ton that is recycled saves on average 17 trees, 60,000 gallons of water, 225 kilowatt hours and 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
Paper has one of the highest recycling rates.
Of all the types of municipal solid waste, paper has one of the highest recovery rates. In 2010, over 60 percent of the paper generated in the United States was recovered for recycling. This figure is especially impressive in light of the fact that the average person uses about 600 pounds of paper products each year.
Recycled paper is an important global commodity.
Of the paper recovered for recycling in the United States, nearly 40 percent is exported to other nations. The remaining 60 percent becomes new products, such as newsprint, boxboard and container board.
Two types of paper dominate in recycling stats.
Of all the types of paper, newsprint and cardboard boxes both have recycling rates over 70 percent. Telephone directories have one of the lowest at 20 percent, based on figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. About 700,000 tons of telephone directories end up in landfills.
A simple change can translate into big savings.
A study developed for Penn State University found that by switching Microsoft’s default one-inch margins to 0.75 inches could save $120,000 a year in paper and disposal costs. In terms of forests, the study postulated that 72 forest acres could be spared by the move.
Paper recycling provides an easy means to benefit the planet while protecting precious resources. Use of virgin wood does not deplete forests, yet it harms the environment by the additional energy needed to produce new paper.