Paper Recycling – the choice of responsible consumers

14 October 2015

“Please consider the environment and do not print this e-mail.” This is the note found at the bottom of many emails these days. But is it really such a sin to print out a statistic from a colleague or a cake recipe from mum? Does responsibly produced paper really place a strain on the environment?

The “don’t print” warning certainly annoys paper producers. John Sanderson, Manager, Environment & Responsibility, UK and Ireland at UPM, regards it as misleading. After all, paper is produced from a renewable raw material, and used paper is not waste, but a valuable raw material that can be reused for making new paper.

Sanderson points out that people’s attitudes towards paper have changed. Previously, it played a more obvious role in consumers’ lives – chiefly in the form of newspapers, magazines and books – whereas nowadays, their focus is increasingly on technology and apps. “Many people say that they cannot live without their mobile phones, but how many could actually cope without paper?” Sanderson asks.

“We don’t always realize just how many times we interact with paper throughout the day,” Sanderson adds. Magazines, advertisements, catalogues, brochures, labels, packaging and cardboard are an integral part of our everyday lives. We rely on paper, the role it plays and the information it carries.

In the graphic paper segment, UPM is the biggest user of recycled paper worldwide. The company uses approximately 3.4 million tonnes of recovered paper every year.

Raw material, not waste

In the UK alone, 4.4 million tonnes of paper and cardboard was produced in 2014. Total consumption increased to 9.3 million tonnes, and the Brits collected 8.0 million tonnes of recovered paper.

This is a significant amount, bearing in mind that paper production and consumption on the island state have decreased in recent years. Clearly, the British are growing accustomed to recycling their paper – and quite rightly so, as paper fibres can be recycled up to six times before they become too weak for paper production. Even after this point, the fibres can still be used as fuel in energy production. “Recovered paper is a valuable raw material. Why would we waste it?” Sanderson asks.

Once a week, he collects the used paper and cardboard in his home and leaves it in recycling bags by his front door for a truck to pick up. The waste paper does not end up at a landfill or waste burning plant, but is turned into raw material for making new paper.

In short: Informed consumers can print their e-mails with a clear conscience. They know that they are handling a valuable raw material that can be recycled again and again to generate new paper.

Waste paper in the circular economy

Helen Moster

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