Recycling of Paper

Richard Quinnell

The first article in a two-part series written by Richard Quinnell, who wrote the popular series about the art of composting.

Paper and paper products are perhaps the most used daily recyclable commodity, so much so some of us may not be aware that we are using a recycled paper product. Recycle paper tonnage is more than plastic, glass and aluminium combined.

Let’s consider what 1 metric ton of recycled paper saves:

17 mature trees

24500 litres of water

1330 litres of oil

4000 kilowatts of electricity (enough to power a middle-class home for +6 months)

3 m³ of landfill space

1 metric ton of CO2 gas

The above figures are not debatable, paper recycling is an environmental win. Newsprint, for example, is recycled into new blank newsprint, egg cartons, building insulation, food trays, kitty litter, and toilet paper to name but a few products. South Africa compares favourably with the world in the percentage of recycled paper. The Paper Recycle Association of SA (PRASA) predicted 63% paper used in SA will be recycled by 2017. 2015 saw 66% of used paper being recycled. That says something positive about the citizens of our country.

Much can be written on the history of paper and recycling. The internet is there for those wanting more information. Briefly, China is credited as the first country making paper from various products such as bark, hemp and rags, boiled into a pulp and dried in thin sheets in order to record important information and history. The art of papermaking to the west was through the capturing of a Chinese paper mill by Muslims (Syria, Saudi Arabia & Iraq) who then took the secret with them to Europe. The first paper mill was built in Spain. The next 800 years saw papermaking in Europe become an important industry for the making of books; for bibles, school and library, historical and financial records. In 1690 America’s first paper mill started using old linen to produce paper. As we see from above paper recycling or paper from recycled products started way back in time.

Recycled paper is used for producing newsprint and magazine paper, notepads, paper shopping bags, toilet paper, cardboard boxes and various food product packaging (eggs, vegetables). Paper can be recycled up to 7 times before the fibres become too short to create a strong enough bond.

Glossy magazines can be recycled but the paper that is plastic or wax coated cannot be recycled. It is therefore up to us to think of alternatives that we can buy or do to minimise the purchase or use of non-recyclable paper products.

During the 1990’s there was a keen interest in the homemade recycled paper for arts and crafts. Overnight, shredded paper bins at offices were poached for their contents. Magazines of all calibre carried articles on how to do decorative recycle paper at home.

Would it not be a tourist plus for Sabie whereby as much as possible paper and cardboard was recycled locally thereby creating employment? Fresh produce trays and bowls could be produced locally for the town’s chain stores thereby reducing the need for polystyrene. Tourists will be attracted to such a venture. There are paper collectors for the town. Assist them by placing paper products is its own bag/box.

Next, we are going to look at making recycled paper and other products from the waste paper which the family can do as fun together.

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