Two Sides Going Green Fast Fact
In the latest edition of SAPPI’s eQ Journal,
By Richard Romano
Published: June 17, 2013
In the latest edition of SAPPI’s eQ Journal, entitled “Rethinking Recyling,”
says that “For paper products, recovery rates in the US are at an all-time high. In fact, paper recovery increased by 1.2 million tons in 2011, lifting the recovery rate to a record-high 66.8%. That’s up from 63.5% in 2010 and 33.5% in 1990.”
Why should you care?
Obviously, recycling—of paper and anything else—is important, but there are certain caveats involved. First and foremost, paper products, like most products, are manufactured for quality and performance. If you buy National Geographic
magazine, you are often doing so for the quality of the printed product (this is why longtime subscribers have been loath to discard copies of the magazine). Anything that has the potential to degrade that quality reduces the value of that printed product, which is something we rarely ask of any other type of product. Even though recycled grades are getting better, the fact remains that recycled fiber is structurally weaker than virgin fiber, which can translate into reduced paper quality and decreased performance on press.
Now, not every printed product is National Geographic
, but there are still standards for brightness, cleanliness, and runnability. More to the point, though, the recycling process itself is not without an environmental impact.
Says Sappi elsewhere in the journal, “our analysis shows that adding 10% recycled fiber to products made at our Somerset mill actually raises the carbon footprint of those products by 16%.” (We see the same kind of thing in conversations about the "greenness" of things like wide-format inks. Non-solvent inks, for example, do not contain volatile organic compounds, which can be good for the environment, but as a result require longer heating times to evaporate all the liquid vehicle and dry the print, which can be bad for the environment.) So we need to ensure that we're not substituting one environmental cost for another.
So, yes, we should recycle paper if for no other reason than to reduce waste, but also understand that 100% recycling is neither practical—or even desirable.