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Is paper really sustainable or do we go electronic?
One of the great things about paper is that its primary raw materials are renewable. The paper and forest products industry replenishes more than it takes and ensure the sustainability of our forests by planting 1.7 million trees every single day, more than three times what is harvested. And the U.S. Dept. of Energy has stated that the carbon sequestered on forested lands in 2006 was greater than the carbon released from harvesting wood over the same time period.
Making a computer typically requires the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals, including gold, silver and palladium, as well as the extensive use of plastics and hydrocarbon solvents. The lifespan of a computer is short, and electronics have become the fastest growing waste stream in the world.
Paper is truly sustainable, with waste fully recoverable, ready for recycling into new paper. When people use more paper, landowners plant more trees. Electronic devices don’t grow on trees. The Electronic industry continues to grow rapidly. Based on current non-renewable raw materials and escalating energy demands, this growth is unsustainable.
Paper is also biodegradable, as well as recyclable and reusable. Nearly 60% of all paper in the US is recycled and more than 63% of the fiber used to make new paper come from recycled sources. Only 18% of electronic devices are recycled. 1.84 million tons of these devices were disposed of in US landfills in one year.
The fact is, there will be both paper and electronics in the future. I can’t imagine a world without either. Asking the right questions and having the right information helps us all make better choices for the environment. Paper is a landmark industry in it’s recycling and sustainability programs and has been for years.