Rebuttal Essay – Mike Middleton

More Paper, Cleaner Air

            There are a lot of paper products which are made and used in our society every day. Due to the fact that a great number of trees are cut down to make the goods, it may be difficult to see how these products actually benefit the environment rather than harm it. People are often taught that plastic is a better choice over paper for the very reason of saving trees. As it turns out; however, cutting down more trees and using more paper is more beneficial to the environmental. This is because paper products actually act as a sink hole for carbon and the process to make paper has its own benefits.

In order to make paper, a countless number of trees are cut down which are then brought to lumber mills to be manufactured. Trees serve the primary purpose of breaking down carbon in the environment and producing oxygen as a waste product so cutting down these trees would potentially be harmful for the environment. It is true that these trees always have a positive impact towards the atmosphere, but it is also true that some of these trees, particularly the older trees, do not do their job of breaking carbon to oxygen as efficiently as their younger ancestors. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, “ general, younger and faster growing forests have higher annual sequestration rates.” meaning that older trees are not as efficient. Since these trees provide a neutral impact on the environment, it would be more effective to replace them with younger trees. Those trees that were cut down to be replaced would then be used to make paper.

Manufacturing paper can produce a lot of wasted energy and water as well as release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are; however, ways to reduce the waste through the EPA’s carbon dioxide capture and sequestration, or CCS, technologies. These technologies exist for the primary function of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that is put into the atmosphere through underground injection and geologic sequestration. The EPA describes these processes as ways to utilize terrestrial and geologic landscapes as storages for the extra CO2 produced during the manufacturing of paper products. This is done by creating injection wells, a series of pipes installed in the ground which allow contents like carbon dioxide to be pumped through and discarded below multiple layers of soil. This is widely beneficially because the harmful CO2 which is normally left to fill the atmosphere is instead displaced over 7000 feet downward to an injection zone. The injection zone is an area very deep underground area closed off by an impermeable seal where CO2 can alternatively and safely be deposited. Fossil fuels, which when burned create CO2, are used in most industrial factories. By using CSS technologies, carbon dioxide emissions can safely be reduced by up to 80-90%.

Many people try to do their part for helping the environment by recycling paper, and though only about fifty-four percent of all paper is recycled (Keep America Beautiful), this makes up for more than one-third of all recycled materials. On top of this, the amount of paper that is recycled accounts for about thirty-three percent of the sources of materials used to manufacture new paper. Thirty-three percent of the source of materials used to make paper also comes from wood scraps in sawmills and the same percent again comes from the trees that are cut down. Efficiency is important in the paper making process because not all trees can be cut down. Some trees are peaking at their maturity and effectiveness while other trees were just planted. By cutting down old trees that are in need of being cut down, the procedure is done fluently using less than thirty-three percent of materials coming from trees. This still leaves a large percentage of paper which is not being recycled, but that paper is still serving a purpose towards its environment.

Paper that ends up in landfills and other places of rest for materials break down relatively slow taking decades and sometimes even centuries. This is beneficial because paper serves as a carbon sink and by staying intact for such a long time, is an effective means of storage. Paper can only be recycled four to six times (Through the Mill) before the virgin fibers are worn down and the paper is unrecyclable. Paper that is recycled allows less trees to be cut down while paper that has lost its ability to be recycled serve as a carbon sink.

The life cycle of paper is efficient and can provide many benefits for the atmosphere. By making more paper, we remove more carbon from the air as well as cut less trees.


Works Cited

“Basic Information about Injection Wells.” Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <>.

“Carbon Dioxide Capture and Sequestration.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <>.

Claiborne, Ray C. “Through the Mill.” Weblog post. The New York Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <>.

“FOPAP: Why We Should Not Recycle Paper.” FOPAP: Why We Should Not Recycle Paper. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2013. <>.

“RECYCLING.” Keep America Beautiful. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <>.

“Trees: The Carbon Storage Experts.” – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <>.





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One Response to Rebuttal Essay – Mike Middleton

  1. davidbdale says:

    Hey, Mike!
    Before I react to your paragraphs, you should consolidate your citations into a single Works Cited for your final draft. I thank you for the Old/New breakdown, but now that I’ve seen it, you can drop the distinction.

    Nice title: it’s counterintuitive and intriguing.

    P1. This is confusing, Mike. Taking it step by step actually makes it harder to follow. You don’t want to say that paper products can be replaced by more environmentally friendly material in one sentence and then contradict yourself in the next. You want to make clear from the start that the first statement is untrue (although we often think of it as true). Paper products only seem unfriendly because we think they represent a loss of trees, but if their production promotes the planting of trees, that objection disappears. You have an important lesson to teach here about paper as a sink hole to sequester carbon. Say it directly and trust in the value of the idea. Then contrast it to plastic, which does not have the same benefit (and which, in fact, requires bringing carbon up from below the earth for its manufacture).

    P2. “breaking down carbon in the environment” isn’t quite accurate, is it? CO2 is broken down. Carbon is split off and sequestered, the O2 is released.

    Overall, this is an excellent paragraph that clearly identifies the value of the trees and the benefit of replacing old trees with young trees. The only problem I see is the little detour of “some of these trees, particularly the older ones.” Streamline this claim to: younger trees do this better than older trees and are therefore preferable, or older trees lose this capability and eventually become carbon neutral, at which time they can serve us better as sources of paper and give way to more beneficial younger trees.

    P3. This transition sounds like back-tracking. To avoid that, soften the bad news before you give it. Of course, making paper is not without its costs: it uses energy and water and releases some carbon dioxide. But the net result is a carbon gain and . . . . waste can be minimized. Do you see the difference?

    If possible, avoid sequences of sentence that begin: There are . . . these technologies . . . these processes . . . This is done . . . This is widely beneficial . . . an injection zone; the injection zone. They sound like sequences you are making up as you write them. Shape the material to prove your point and provide the transitions to guide readers to conclusions.

    • Injection wells allow contents to be discarded.
    • Harmful CO2 is displaced instead of released into the atmosphere.
    • Carbon is buried deep, where it does no harm.
    • Don’t hide these claims in “There is, there are, this is” language. Make your subject your subject.

      P4. What’s the relevance of saying that recycled paper makes up (not makes up for) one third of all recycled material, Mike?

      Don’t let your “By” sentence get into your portfolio, please.
      Rotating more paper into recycling would reduce the number of trees cut down, which in turn makes it possible to fulfill the need with only the older, less efficient trees that should be replaced by younger trees.

      P5. P4 ends with two sentences beginning “This would create”and “This still leaves.” P5 is a sandwich of two sentences beginning “This is beneficial” and “This is good news” inside two sentences that begin “Paper that ends up” and “Paper that is recycled.” The result it not compelling reading, Mike. Other readers will not know why they’re missing something, but they won’t feel guided to understand the logical connections you want them to.

      P6. Don’t let your “By” sentence in to your portfolio, please. Fails for grammar Rule 5. Plus, carbon doesn’t have more paper. These by phrases need to be followed by the right subject, in this case we.
      By making more paper, we remove carbon from the air and cut down fewer trees. I don’t know if that’s logical, but it’s grammatically correct.

      I really respect your research and the shape of your overall argument, Mike. I also appreciate your good humor in the face of what must feel like a constant barrage of criticism about your language use and sentence structure. I apologize for being so negative. You really are getting better. I just wish we could have started two years back, before you developed all your habits. It takes time to change your voice. You were brave to take my course again after I beat you up so thoroughly in Comp I. I hope you don’t regret it now that I’ve continued to punish you.

      Grade recorded.

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