Paper, the Savior to a Clean Atmosphere
The health of the environment is in constant concern among a lot of people. Looking for new ways to improve the quality of the air that we breathe and reducing our society’s carbon footprint that is left behind. Some of the best ways of doing so is by improving the way we impact our environment. One way to do this is by using more paper.
A lot of companies and environmentalists believe that it is important to use less paper and not more because it “..not only saves money, [but] it can also reduce poor practices and inefficiencies..” (Acma, 83) The reason they say it is not environmental is because they look at the process to make it and not the end result. It can’t be argued that making paper doesn’t waste both water and energy; however, it can be proved that using more paper actually aids in improving the quality of the atmosphere. The more paper that is created and used, the more paper that stays in the efficient circle of being recycled and retaining carbon. Even the paper that is not recycled serves as a carbon sink as long as it doesn’t breakdown in landfills.
Carbon is constantly being sequestered from the air by trees in the environment, and even though they are cut down, the paper they are turned into still holds some of it. The more paper that is made from old carbon neutral trees, the more carbon that is effectively removed from the air. Since carbon dioxide is formed by the bonding of a single carbon atom and two atoms of oxygen, there would essentially be more oxygen in the air after the removal of carbon. For example, if there is a single carbon atom and three oxygen atoms, then the two oxygen atoms would form CO2 with the carbon atom. Though there is only one oxygen atom left, you could think of it on a much larger scale where that single oxygen atom contributes to the air you breathe. Now think about how paper retains carbon, say that single carbon atom, leaving 4 oxygen atoms left. 4 times the amount of oxygen thanks to a single paper product. Mike Johnston in his article about oxygen lost due to carbon dioxide explains that “We are losing three oxygen molecules in our atmosphere for each carbon dioxide molecule that is produced when we burn fossil fuels.” Paper can aid in reducing the number of oxygen molecules lost in the formation of carbon dioxide by sequestering the carbon. Even though making paper creates carbon dioxide emissions, the carbon that paper withholds can out weight this amount.
The quantity of carbon produced subtracted by the amount of carbon withheld by the paper product it is turned into can be called the net emission. This number shows how efficient paper actually is at removing carbon versus how much is produced during its creation process. Fortunately, “the ‘net’ CO2 locked up in paper – and especially in paper made from virgin fiber in many cases, is more than enough to compensate for the CO2 emitted during the printing process.” (FOPAP) Since paper actually can actually hold just as much if not more carbon then the amount that is produced from making it, manufacturing more paper positively helps in improving the atmosphere.
Paper is efficient whether it is simply placed in landfills or recycled, thought it is still essential for paper to consistently be recycled because it makes up for a large portion of the materials used to make new paper. In fact as of 2010, the EPA found that recycled paper materials accounts for thirty-three percent of the sources that are used to generate new paper products. This aids in reducing the number of trees that are required to be cut down and manufactured as well as reducing the amount of waste that goes into doing so. So even though “the whole process uses tens of millions of trees per year and generates millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases,” (Acma, 84) it is forgotten that a lot of the trees that are in fact cut down are old and are no longer reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. It is also important to remember that even after the process of making paper products, carbon can still be retained.
Our environment’s health is a key issue and as the years continue to go by, more ways to improve how we as humans impact it must be found. Utilizing more paper is one of those ways because it is efficient whether is recycled or not due to its ability to retain carbon.
Acma.gov.au. Chapter 6 – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Easy Steps to Cut out Paper Waste. N.p.: n.p., n.d. ACMA. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. <http://about.sensis.com.au/IgnitionSuite/uploads/docs/SENS0047_Book_ONLINE_v4a-Chpt06.pdf>.
“Atmospheric Oxygen Levels Fall As Carbon Dioxide Rises.” – Blogcritics Sci/Tech. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://blogcritics.org/scitech/article/atmospheric-oxygen-levels-fall-as-carbon/>.
“FOPAP: Why We Should Not Recycle Paper.” FOPAP: Why We Should Not Recycle Paper. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2013. <http://www.fopap.org/why_we_should_not_recycle_paper.html>.
“Frequent Questions.” Wastes – Resource Conservation – Common Wastes & Materials – Paper Recycling. US Environmental Protection Agency, 18 01 2013. Web. 2 Apr 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/paper/faqs.htm>.