Sunday, 10 May 2015

Paper Thin Environmental Concerns


Everyday we use paper to write down lists of things we are too lazy to do or maybe doodle on our homework handout but we don't really understand the process of how these rectangular 8"x11" sheets are made and the harm of the chemicals used in the making.

Paper Cutz 4 Plant Ark is an organization to reduce the amount of paper used in "low involvement" communications where the substitution of an electronic medium would be better suited. Their main focus is to reduce the amount of paper used and have many topics and discussions on the environmental impacts of paper manufacturing.       

In the article "Environmental Impacts of  Paper Manufacturing" topics such as the effects pre-manufacturing and post-use(in the landfills). Production of paper is a very chemical intensive process, it is also the largest industry user per tonne of product in the United States of America. (PaperCutz 4 PlanetArk, Environmental Impacts of  Paper Manufacturing) To top that, the pulp and paper industry ranks fourth among industrial sectors in emissions of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals to water, and third in such releases to air. (PaperCutz 4 PlanetArk, Environmental Impacts of  Paper Manufacturing)

The chemicals used in paper manufacture, including dyes, inks, bleach, and sizing, can also be harmful to the environment when they are released into water supplies and nearby land after use. (How Products are Made: Paper) This can contaminate the water supply with chemicals for a variety uses such as bleaching(Sodium Dithionite, Sodium Hypochlorate, Sodium Peroxide, Sodium Thiosulfate, etc) In large concentrates, these chemicals can be proven lethal. (ToxNet) As one can assume, this is not a typically ideal substance to find in our drinking water.

PaperCutz 4 PlantArk also delves into the chemical effects of the paper when it ends up in the landfills. Once in a landfill, paper has the potential of decomposing and producing methane gas which goes into the atmosphere and contributes to the trapping of Carbon Monoxide in the atmosphere. (PaperCutz 4 PlanetArk, Environmental Impacts of  Paper Manufacturing) These side effects will be a little more harmful than a measly paper cut, that's for sure!

QOTD: So do you think that switching over to a more electronic communication medium is more effective and worth saving the environment from the chemicals? To what extent should we prioritize online resources as media instead of paper products?

Thank you! To see the Bibliography see the Resources post.




    I feel like this is a tough question to answer, because you can advocate for both sides. The paper industry obviously uses trees, and pollutes in the process. However I know that electronics often have plastic in them, as well as other toxic compounds that are no doubt pollutants as well. It might come down to the amount you read and the environmental impact of your selected medium. Maybe a thousand pages electronically would amount to less pollution than a thousand printed, for example, although I don't actually have numbers on that. But then comes the problem of technology advancement and the general populi wanting the latest tech. Then, the old technology, becoming a pollutant not just in its production process but also in its eventual dump at some landfill, might outweigh the pollution of printing out all the paper. Thus, it ends up being a personal decision, although I suggest that if you already have a tablet/laptop/etc. that you get as much use out of it as you can without using more paper. Also plant trees, regardless. (Because even if you don't read, you're probably not very environmentally friendly anyways.)

    1. (Oh and this is Breana, btw nice blog Celeste :3)

  2. I love paper; I love drawing, writing, and reading. I think that there are many things that can and will be switched over to electronics. Already in school, assignments are made through media and submitted online (take this entire blog assignment, for example.) However, it’s hard to say whether electronics are better than paper, as electronics use electricity and create hazardous waste. Electronic files are more efficient, easier to modify, and are much more accessible. But I personally prefer to have an actual book in my hands than read off a machine. I think there are pros and cons to both mediums and that we should find a way to improve paper processes, rather than turn our backs on it entirely.

  3. I think paper is important and I don't think everything should be switched over electronically. Paper is biodegradable and electronics aren't and with our society always wanting the latest gadget, where are all these electronics ending up? I also think that even though the chemicals used in creating the paper can be harmful, I think there's probably other options. Personally I know that my family gets recycled paper nowadays and that it isn't as white as normal paper which would reduce the amount of chemicals produced. I think in the end, both of the options can have a harmful effect on our environment so we should be cautious. I think that the transition into not using as much paper is good but I don't think we should completely get rid of paper in our lives because in the end, we're making an impact either way.

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  5. Hello, Celeste!

    As you may know, this is definitely a difficult issue to resolve. I was surprised by the facts presented in the article--I never realized how much damage paper manufacturing can cause to the environment asides from deforestation. We use paper so often everyday, that when you take the world population into perspective, it's then scary to realize how much damage and harm using and manufacturing paper can cause. The problem here is, we NEED paper (e.g. school exams, packagings, cardboard boxes, etc.). It's so important to us, that manufacturing it is like a necessity due to high demand, just so we have something to fold, write on, and/or doodle on. Clearly, this is a major ethical/environmental issue/concern.

    In answering your question, I really don't think that a electronic medium is that much better of an alternative than using paper because we do have to take into account the amount of damage electronics can cause too. Replacing paper with electronics will require a lot of energy production, and could greatly decrease the abundance of resources, as not all forms of energy production are renewable. It can also cause pollution due to the burning of fossil fuels, or chaos for fish living near dams from the sped up hydroelectric processes in order to accomodate for increased electricity demands. Waste from machines when disposed of can also leak mercury, which is highly poisonous, into the environment. Therefore, our best option instead would be to minimize the use of paper as much as possible, and to save as much as possible.