What is paper made of? Surprisingly not so many people know that paper can come from rags, hemp, old fishnets, and remnants of a mulberry tree. These are the ingredients for paper in ancient China. So it was a big deal back then in the year 105 AD. These ingredients form a paste that can be flattened and dried in the sun. The emperor was ecstatic about it although the first use was to wrap objects.
Recycling paper can be profitable
Soon paper began to change the world. Within 650 years, printing had arrived, bringing human civilization with books, playing cards, and toilet paper.
In the Middle East, the paper introduced at the same time with the Golden Age of Islam, allowing scholars to record their breakthroughs in the fields of science, engineering, literature, and mathematics. Meanwhile, in Europe, it took another 1000 years for paper to arrive, since previously the Europeans use sheepskin. It is expensive and inefficient. Paper makes the distribution of literature, religion, and science more efficient.
More Than Meets The Eye
Fast forward to recent time, the world currently uses around 400 million tonnes of paper per year for various products. It’s hard to imagine modern life without paper even in the age of cashless. Paper is still useful, demand for paper is growing all over the world, and it appears that it will take the prominent position again as climate-conscious businesses switch from plastic bags to paper bags, paper wrappers, and paper water cups.
But how sustainable is paper really? And what can be done to reduce its environmental impact? To produce paper, the environment must take a huge punch, to make just a single A4 sheet, you need between two and 13 liters of water. One study found that the global paper industry eats up around 6.4 exajoules (EJ) of energy each year – enough to make some 87 trillion cups of tea. All that energy means paper contributes 2% of the world’s total carbon footprint. Another punch in the face of mother nature. Not to mention the trees.
But the game-changer is recycling. Recycling drastically reduces the amount of just about everything else that it uses up. As an illustration, every 907kg of paper that is recycled, 17 tree lives are spared – along with 1,727 liters of oil, 2.29 cubic meters of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy, and 31,822 liters of water. Recycling also good business, the recycling industry is estimated worth $139 billion in the US alone and accounts for nearly 40% of the nation’s total paper supply. So a good business and environmentally friendly products can go in the same way.
The concept of compostable paper has been catching on to be more sustainable. Food and snack wrappers can easily biodegrade within weeks, not months, even some paper have seeds which can make it faster to disintegrate
New Age of Paper
EU countries have the highest recycling rates in the world. Incredibly, 72% of paper was recycled in 2017 this also means that European countries recycle around two tonnes of paper per second. One major contributor to this trend is Italy as a world-leader in recycling. In Italy, 57% of the raw materials used by paper mills consist of used paper, and each minute, they recycle 10 tonnes of the stuff – amounting to around five million tonnes every year.
Paper is no longer waste, now it is a new commodity. Paper recycling is the game changer in this game. No longer the cost of recycling surpasses the cost of selling it back. According to the USDA Forest Service in responsibly managed areas, sometimes using more paper can lead to more trees.
In the future, genetic technologies will help human to recycle paper and environmentally friendly. There will be genetically grown trees that are more easily mashed and paper can be developed as new sustainable material by the scientist.