Paper is a thin sheet material produced by mechanically and/or chemically processing cellulose fibres derived from wood, rags, grasses or other vegetable sources in water, draining the water through fine mesh leaving the fibre evenly distributed on the surface, followed by pressing and drying.
It is a versatile material with many uses, including printing, packaging, decorating, writing, cleaning, filter paper, wallpaper, book endpaper, conservation paper, laminated worktops, toilet tissue, currency and security paper and a number of industrial and construction processes.
Coffee filters are made from filter paper. There are many debates about which filter is better: bleached or unbleached.
Unbleached filters are made from raw paper, therefore more natural and much more environmentally friendly.
Bleached filters are whitened with Chlorine or oxygen. Unfortunately, bleached filters are not as good for the environment. First, there is an added step to the manufacturing process. Second, these filters with the bleach can pollute the environment when they are discarded, even though there is only a very small amount of bleach used. Oxygen-based bleaches are the better option here as well, as oxygen is much more environmentally friendly compared to chlorine.
On average, it takes paper approximately 2-6 weeks to decompose in a landfill. Paper is the most prominent waste element occupying most landfills today (paper makes up for around 25% of landfill waste and around 33% of municipal waste).
The process of waste paper recycling most often involves mixing used/old paper with water and chemicals to break it down. It is then chopped up and heated, which breaks it down further into strands of cellulose, a type of organic plant material; this resulting mixture is called pulp, or slurry. It is strained through screens, which remove plastic (especially from plastic-coated paper) that may still be in the mixture then cleaned, de-inked (ink is removed), bleached, and mixed with water. Then it can be made into new recycled paper.
40% of the world’s commercially cut timber is used for the production of paper.
Pulpwood plantations and mills endanger natural habitats.
Over 30 million acres of forest are destroyed annually.
The pulp and paper industry is a big contributor to the problem of deforestation and is partly to blame for the endangerment of some species that live in the forests.
The life cycle of paper is damaging to the environment from beginning to end. It starts off with a tree being cut down and ends its life by being burned – emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Paper production uses up lots of water. An A4 paper requires 10 litres of water per sheet.
Most of the materials in landfills are made of paper. When paper rots, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas. When it is burned or composted, carbon dioxide.