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Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 14:43 GMT
Half paper waste 'could be saved'

rolls Every fifth tree cut down ends up as paper

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

An influential US environmental think-tank, the Worldwatch Institute, based in Washington DC, says the world could cut its consumption of paper by more than half.

In a report, 'Paper Cuts: Recovering the Paper Landscape', the institute says a reduction in use is essential, because of the consumption of raw materials that is involved in its production and disposal.

The report says global paper use has grown more than six times in the last 50 years. A fifth of all the trees felled in the world are used for making paper, and a fifth of all the energy used globally by industry goes into papermaking. Producing one tonne of paper requires the same amount of energy as iron or steel.

And the environmental impact does not stop there: in some countries, including the US, the report says, paper accounts for almost 40% of all municipal solid waste.

It says the way to reduce paper use lies in cutting consumption in industrialised countries, improving papermaking efficiency, and using more recycled paper and materials other than wood in manufacture.

Saving money

One of the authors, Janet Abramovitz, said: "We have the tools at hand to dramatically lessen the impact of paper on the world's forests, as well as to reduce energy use, air and water pollution, and solid waste.

"And as businesses like Bank of America, United Parcel Service, and Proctor and Gamble have discovered, saving paper saves money too."

recycling Less than half of used paper is recycled
The bank cut its paper consumption by 25% in two years by increasing the use of on-line forms and reports, e-mail, double-sided copying, and lighter-weight papers. It recycles 61% of the paper it uses, and saves about $500,000 annually in waste removal costs.

The US Postal Service and several private companies, including UPS, Airborne, and FedEx now use envelopes and boxes made with anything from 50% to 100% of recycled waste paper, and are phasing out bleached paper.

Using agricultural waste

The report says eliminating the chlorine bleaching of paper, which it describes as deadly to the environment and dangerous for papermill workers, is "an essential step towards producing cleaner paper and improving profitability".

Ashley Mattoon, joint author of the report, said: "Papermakers can also incorporate more non-wood fibres, making use of a portion of the agricultural wastes that are currently burned in many places, while reducing chemical use in pulping and driving down demand for wood fibre".

Although the volume of paper sent for recycling has tripled since 1975, the report says, about 57% of used paper is still treated as waste.

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See also:
25 Aug 99 |  Sci/Tech
Tyre recycling rolls out
15 Sep 99 |  Sci/Tech
UN urges rich to slash consumption
15 Sep 99 |  Sci/Tech
UN warns of Earth crisis

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