Paper waste is a direct cause of deforestation, one of the most problematic environmental issues we’re dealing with here in the United States and throughout the world today.
Paper waste also indirectly speeds up the process of global warming, which is arguably THE BIGGEST environmental issue of our time.
Did you know that every piece of paper you throw away (instead of recycling) pollutes our Earth in some way or another?
Luckily, there are various steps you can take to help reduce paper waste in our world, on top of simply recycling. In this article, I want to talk a bit about how paper waste affects our planet and what we can do to reduce them. Read on to see what you can do!
How does Paper Waste Affect our Planet?
In 2014, there were more than 400 million tons of paper and cardboard being manufactured at one point in time, according to Business2Community. That is A LOT of paper. Do you know how such paper production affects our earth?
To make a long story short, paper pollutes our planet starting from the time it’s produced to the time it’s thrown away. Here are some specific effects:
- Air pollution from chemicals used to make paper
- Water pollution from chemical discharges used to make paper
- Deforestation from paper production
- Excessive Co2 emissions from deforestation and energy used for paper production
For example, greenhouse gasses are created from powering paper mills to make more and more paper and cardboard for shipping, packaging, etc. According to What’s Your Impact, greenhouse gasses also happen to be the single largest variable affecting global warming.
When greenhouse gasses are emitted, the process of global warming is sped up. In fact, the paper industry is the fourth largest industrial energy user emitting greenhouse gasses into our environment, according to WWF Panda. Additionally, deforestation due to paper production affects climate change negatively by helping to emit even more Co2 into the atmosphere. Here’s how it happens.
What is Deforestation?
42 percent of trees harvested for industrial uses go into making paper, according to StopWaste.org. This makes paper production one of the biggest causes of deforestation, on top of other harmful environmental effects. But what is deforestation exactly?
Deforestation is the clearing out of forests for human uses such as building wastelands, pastures, cities, and making paper, according to Conserve-Energy-Future. What happens when deforestation occurs? You guessed it! Hundreds and even thousands of natural habitats are disrupted. This means families of amazing plants, trees, and animals like fuzzy deer, baby rabbits, and chubby bears are forced out of their homes. But that’s not all.
“Paper waste is the leading cause of deforestation because 93 percent of paper comes from trees, according to TheWorldCounts.com.”
How does Deforestation Affect the Environment?
Two common methods of deforestation include clear-cutting and burning trees, which are both traumatic for the natural environment, according to Live Science. Clear-cutting is the act of cutting down huge groups of trees all at one time. Burning is usually used by farmers who will cut down and burn trees in swaths to create pastures for farming.
In one year, we steal about 18 million acres of forest via deforestation, according to Live Science. 18 million acres is as big as roughly 13,621,013 football fields, or about the size of Panama.
Can you imagine going out for a mid-afternoon snack and coming home only to find that your home is no longer there? Even worse, can you imagine waking up to your house being torn down or burnt right in front of your eyes? Throughout humanity, this type of turmoil has only been dealt with in times of war. So why do we knowingly do this to our Earth and our fellow plant and animal friends? And it gets worse.
Not only do we steal homes from nature via deforestation; we emit more Co2 into the atmosphere via deforestation. Here’s how it works.
The Process of Co2 Emission via Deforestation
You see, trees store Co2. In fact, 300 billion tons of carbon is stored in trees, according to Live Science. What do you think happens when you cut down or burn trees that have been storing Co2? The Co2 ends up making its way into our atmosphere. Therefore, by cutting down trees, we are essentially removing a natural remedy for climate change from our environment.
Why are we still knowingly doing this?!
Paper waste is the leading cause of deforestation because 93 percent of paper comes from trees, according to TheWorldCounts.com. In fact, paper-packaging alone makes up a third or more of the trash we throw away or recycle after using it for shipping and packaging.
After researching these facts, I have to wonder: isn’t there a better way?
Paper wasn’t always such a common commodity. With the arrival of the digital age, many businesses and organizations are beginning to recognize their paper-waste faults and would like to know what they can do to fix it. In relation, consumers should always be thinking about what they can do to eliminate paper waste from their lives and hence, from seeping into our planet’s precious environment.
Steps you Can Take to Reduce Paper Waste
If you’re as concerned as I am about paper waste after hearing about the facts, there are a couple things you can do to help. Here’s a short list:
1. Reduce the amount of paper you buy and use every day. First, try to reduce the amount of paper you use each day. This will lessen the need to reuse and recycle. If you need to use paper, try to use chlorine-free paper; it’s better for the environment.
2. Reuse paper in every way possible before you recycle it. You can reuse paper by:
- cleaning your windows or glass with it.
- reusing boxes for shipping.
- reusing boxes for arts and crafts.
- wrapping gifts or using it as packing paper instead of bubble wrap.
- creating origami art.
- putting it in the fireplace.
- wrapping your fruit with them to ripen them faster.
- printing and copying on both sides of the paper.
- being creative!
3. Recycle paper and cardboard once you’ve reused it all you can. Recycling an entire single cycle of the New York Times on Sunday would save 75,000 trees, according to the University of Southern Indiana. Imagine how many trees we could save if we all recycled?!
4. Don’t throw paper garbage(or any garbage) out into the environment. This one is pretty obvious; don’t intentionally pollute our planet!
5. Go paperless! You can switch your bills and insurance to paperless with pretty much every company these days. Always ask about paperless options to eliminate the use of unnecessary paper you’ll only end up recycling anyway.
6. Become more aware of your actions and how they affect our planet. Overall, try to reflect more on how your everyday actions affect our Earth. Every little bit counts on the mission to reduce waste and negative environmental impact.
Help Stop Paper Waste in your Home or Office Today
Now that you are aware of the harmful effects paper waste has on our planet, make sure you’re doing what you can to reduce paper waste in your everyday activities.
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