- Currently thousands of tonnes of good quality, recyclable paper are going to landfill every year. This paper degrades along with other food waste, adding to the levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the air we breathe. One of these GHGs is methane which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
- In some cases, paper is incinerated, also causing air pollution.
- By recycling paper, the carbon (originally stored by trees in the wood fibre) remains ‘locked up’ – and out of the atmosphere – for longer.
- It extends the life of landfills. One tonnes of recovered paper is equal to three cubic metres of landfill space.
- The collection, sorting and processing of recyclables plays a vital role in formal and informal job creation. An informal collector could start the day without a cent in his pocket and by the end of the day have enough money for an evening meal for his family.
- Recycled paper fibre is an important raw material in the production of packaging and tissue products. Some 65% of the country’s paper mills depend on recycled fibre and a number of them use it as their only fibre source.
Things to think about
Does recycling save trees? Is recycled paper better for the environment than virgin paper?
No, recycling does not save trees. This is because the trees are specially farmed for the purpose of papermaking.. For the manufacture of paper and timber products, trees are sustainably planted, grown and harvested in cycles – making paper a renewable resource. In South Africa, indigenous trees from natural forests are never used for papermaking.
What about using recycled paper?
We should not buy into the guilt, fear and greenwashing that we are ‘killing trees’ by using virgin paper. When using recycled paper, always consider the source. Imported recycled paper may have a higher carbon footprint than you think. By using locally produced and certified virgin paper for printing, communication and crafts we can be assured that is comes from sustainably managed sources. As paper fibres can only be recycled six to seven times, new wood will be always needed to keep the paper cycle going.