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Reduce, Reuse, Recycled Paper

December 13, 2011
a reminder: reduce, reuse, recycle

photo from flickr / pylon757

A few days ago, I saw a bumper sticker that stuck in my head. “If you don’t like logging, try using plastic toilet paper.”

No matter how much you like or dislike logging, I think we can all agree on toilet paper.  But there’s an easy solution: recycled paper!

According to the EPA, just about 63% of all paper in America is recycled. That’s pretty good – kudos to everyone who helps by recycling yours!

But flip it around: 37% of all catalogs, newspapers, cardboard boxes, and mail is getting thrown into the trash, and taking up space in the landfill.  In fact, paper takes up more space in landfills than any other material.

How well does recycling work?  It’s a great way to make sure your paper doesn’t end up in the landfill, but as a way of producing new paper, it’s not a perfect option. When paper is recycled, its fibers get shorter – that is, the tiny pulpy pieces that hold it together are broken into smaller and smaller pieces. So recycled paper can only be turned into lower-quality products, like cardboard or newsprint. As a result, more trees still have to be cut.

The best solution here is to REDUCE, then REUSE, and only after that, RECYCLE.  If we use less paper, use both sides of the paper we have, and then recycle it, fewer trees are needed.

Start by recycling in your home, and buying recycled paper when you need it. But the biggest way to have an impact on saving trees is by working to improve recycling programs.  If your town, your workplace, or your school doesn’t recycle, or doesn’t have enough recycling, or doesn’t buy recycled stuff, you can change itHere’s a great EPA guide to setting up a recycling program.

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