In this article I chase paper waste ! I present arguments and strategies for saving paper, so that companies and homes purchase less paper, and offer strategies so that the abuse of paper based advertising and other large scale paper waste stops.
South Africa as a nation is perpetually short of water, especially safe drinking water.
Paper wastes enormous amounts of water, during the growing of trees and paper production.
Trees for paper production are grown in stands of monocultural alien trees.
This destroys biodiversity.
The mono culture also requires higher maintenance with pesticides and herbicides.
The alien trees require supplemental feeding to grow fast, that is fertilizers and extra water.
Paper production also uses vast amounts of water.
In SA the majority of paper ends up in landfills, releasing methane, the worst climate change gas.
Paper wastes a lot of resources. Paper production is one of the largest polluters and wasters in the world.
Paper production causes pollution with harmfull chemicals such as chlorine, caustic soda, acids, sulphur, dioxin and furans which are health hazards.
40% of the industrial logging in the world is for paper.
Paper wastes the worlds forests. It is thus one of the largest users of raw materials and energy, and old forests in the tropics are being logged to make paper fiber and replaced by moncultural plantations with their harmful effects mentioned above.
Paper wastes energy. Paper production is the 5th largest consumer of energy in the world.
The industrial nations used 87% of global paper production in the 1990’s which should increase to 90% or above by the present.
The paper industry is the 2nd largest consumer of electricity in the USA.
Recycling paper wastes much fewer resources. Production from trees requires 3 times the weight to produce the same weight of paper, whereas in recycling little weight is lost. Paper recycling also produces less pollutants. Recycling reduces energy and water wastage needed to make paper.
The South African Supermarket chains and retail stores need to find alternatives to sending out enormous printed supplements to the local newspapers, advertising their wares. These advertising sheets make up the biggest incoming paper source in my home and I have not even asked for them, and I never ever read them and base a purchase on them.
Many companies like stock companies and banks and estate agents send out regular portfolio reports as thick as books, to people who neither use nor want them.
If you go to the delivery area of a supermarket you will find mountains of used cardboard boxes, this has to stop. All companies must make deliveries of all products in re-usable containers.
The public need to drive around industrial and commercial areas and report to a public forum, factories and retailers throwing away loads of paper and cardboard, like textile places with their cardboard tubes. So that consumer boycott can force them to reduce waste.
Use double sided copying always
Print no hard copies for drafts
Only make prints for people who really need them
Eliminate unneccssary reports
Reduce the size of all printed matter by printing two a page, or by editing out unnecessary information
Eliminate duplicate periodical subscriptions
Donate trade journals to educational institutions where they will be used again.
Streamline all forms to reduce their size.
Don’t use a lot of preprinted letterheads.
Keep mailing lists current.
Teach your staff all of this in bite size chunks and reward adherence.
Composting paper in a wormery is better than throwing it in the bin, as it reduces methane producing landfill.
If you have to compost paper you will find that it tears up nicely in strips. Put some in your kitchen scraps collection bucket to cut odours, use it as bedding in wormbins. Mix it with a little urine and compost it in a hot compost pile.
I use sheets of the shiny advertisements and the dull newsprint to line receptacles for organic waste matter. It packages them nicely in odour free parcels so you never get your hands dirty and the worms can get in easily and love the protection of the dampened paper. It gives me a little lift every day, and don’t we need those, thinking to what end I put the hated advertising bumf, if they only knew.
That said, composting unwanted paper does not solve the problem of wastage of resources like forests, water and energy, and pollution caused by the byproducts of paper production.
Preferably to composting, take all your paper from the home to be recycled by taking it to a recycling depot. Also the door to door people pick up paper, so prepare your paper to give to them, in packages, and give it to them on waste day when they come looking for paper. They are making an honest living and are the poorest of the poor.
But primarily, reduce the flow into your home if you can.
Who still uses phone books ? Telkom should only deliver to people who order them. What can be done to get this message through to Telkom ?
There is a lot of unnecessary packaging coming into the home like post toasties in plastic inside a cardboard box. It is high time for joint action against Pick and Pay, Shoprite and other smaller chains to stop the wasteful packaging and to start dispensing direct to the customer in their own containers (see my section to follow soon on the new shops opening around the world which do this, we already have dispensers of fruit and nuts in many stores in South Africa, so the dispensers are available).
Producing the most waste paper of all are unsolicited advertisers. Retailers must be stopped from delivering voluminous advertising sheets in the post. It is hard to stop the advertising sheets being delivered to your home, I find, and we need to take joint action on such issues. I never look at them nor am I influenced by them. If they have special offers, they must put everything good on one A4 pamphlet. It must be possible and easy to get off their mailing lists, but it isn’t, stopping the flow is like an obstacle race. Electronics and hardware stores, pharmacies, fashion and supermarkets are the worst and we need a name and shame campaign, or to be more loving, a marry the sun type of campaign (Greenpeace Africa ‘proposed’ to Pick and Pay with a giant ring, urging them to switch to solar energy)... we'll see how love works. Lets find out what the Institute for Zero Waste in Africa is doing about it.