Recycling paper seems like a real no-brainer around the home and the office. If you're going to discard paper anyway, it's always better to send it somewhere to be reconstituted than ship it off to the landfill. One important reason to recycle paper is that we use so much of it. Industrial nations use more and more paper every year, and according to the editors of "Recycle: The Essential Guide," paper can account for as much as 20 percent of all of the waste a household produces. But no "pro" is ever without its "con."
On one hand, recycling paper takes 40 percent less energy compared to producing it from scratch. There also are several environmental reasons to recycle paper. Even though trees are a renewable resource, old-growth forests are often cleared so that pulpwood trees can be planted in their place.
Recycling anything sounds like a good idea in principle, but, like any industrial process, it has its downsides and its byproducts. First of all, paper degrades as it is recycled. As such, there exists a limit to the number of times that paper can be recycled. Furthermore, when recycling paper, companies mix it with chemicals and water to remove the ink. Depending on the circumstances, recycling a ton of paper can result in 5,000 more gallons of polluted wastewater than making new paper [source: Sheffield]. As a result, cadmium and lead can start to appear in the water supply.
None the less, there are some very easy ways to reduce your environmental footprint when it comes to paper. First of all, don't print what you don't need, and try to use both sides of a sheet of paper; you'll cut your paper consumption in half. Secondly, if you're not buying recycled paper, try to buy paper made from sustainably managed forests [source: SFI]. And finally, look around your house to figure out how you can use less paper. For instance, maybe some of your paper towel usage can be replaced with cloth hand towels in the kitchen or the garage. That move alone will cut down on waste and save you money over the long term -- while being kinder to the environment.
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