Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light. Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants.
The environmental impact of paper production is important to note since it has many negative effects. Here are some of them:
40% of the world’s commercially cut timber is used for the production of paper.
Pulpwood plantations and mills endanger natural habitats.
Over 30 million acres of forest are destroyed annually.
The pulp and paper industry is a big contributor to the problem of deforestation and is partly to blame for the endangerment of some species that live in the forests.
The life cycle of paper is damaging to the environment from beginning to end.
It starts off with a tree being cut down and ends its life by being burned – emitting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.Paper production uses up lots of water.
An A4 paper requires 10 liters of water per sheet.
Most of the materials in landfills are made of paper.
When paper rots, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas. When it is burned or composted, carbon dioxide.
Environmental Effects of the Paper Industry
Paper pollution refers to environmental pollution caused by the production, use and recycling of paper. Paper pollution causes severe adverse effects to the quality of air, water and land. Discarded paper is a major component of many landfill sites. Pulp and paper is the third largest industrial polluter to air, water, and land in the United States, and studies show that it releases well over 100 million kg of toxic pollution each year.The main components of pulp mill related pollution are chlorine and chlorine based materials, sulfur, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide. Chlorine and compounds of chlorine are used in the bleaching of wood pulp, especially chemical pulps produced by the kraft process or sulfite process. Plants using elemental chlorine produced significant quantities of dioxins that are persistent organic pollutants that are one of the most toxic human-released pollutants.The used process water from a pulp mill contains a lot of organic material such as lignin and other organic material from the trees, including chlorinated organic material. The presence of these organic substances results in high biological oxygen demand (BOD) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC).Other chemicals that are released into the air and water from most paper mills include carbon monoxide, ammonia, nitrogen oxide, mercury, nitrates, methanol, benzene, volatile organic compounds and chloroform.Nitrogen dioxide(NO) sulfur dioxide (SO) and carbon dioxide (CO) are emitted during paper manufacturing. All of them cause acid rain and CO is a major greenhouse gas that causes climate change. These toxic gases contribute to air pollution.Waste water discharged for a pulp and paper mills contain solids, nutrients and dissolved organic matter which when present in high levels pollute water. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus can cause or aggravate eutrophication of fresh water bodies such as lakes and rivers. Organic matter dissolved in fresh water changes ecological characteristics and may lead to death of all higher living organisms. Waste water may also be polluted with organochlorine compounds. Some of these are naturally occurring in the wood, but chlorine bleaching of the pulp produces far larger amounts of toxins to be released.The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that recycling paper cause 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution than making virgin paper. Pulp mills can be sources of both air and water pollution, especially if they produce bleached pulp. * I had no idea the paper industry polluted the world so much. It’s so shocking to me but makes perfect sense. I don’t see why that when all this info is available to us that companies and normal people still don’t use/produce recycled paper products.
Deforestation for the Paper Industry
In the past four decades, the use of paper has risen by 400%. Deforestation has become a major problem, both in developing and developed areas.Roughly, 26% of solid waste dumped in dumping sites is discarded paper and paperboard. Besides, pulp and paper mills also contribute to water, land and air pollution. The industry also uses more water to produce a volume of products that other industries use less water to produce. It has also been identified that de-inking of papers during recycling is a source of chemical emissions.Deforestation is the clearing of vast areas of trees, largely as a result of human activities. But why? Clearing land for agriculture so we can plant Oil Palms (to produce palm oil), Soybeans (to produce food for ourselves, and to feed livestock with various soy products), and other crops. Creating space for cattle ranches in response to the increasing global demand for beef. Expanding urban areas, build new transport routes and housing developmentsAnd, of course, providing the paper industry with wood pulp to turn into paper and cardboard products, our focus today.Some of these items are steadily becoming outdated in favour of digitalisation, at least in some parts of the world. As we move into the thick of the 21st century many of us have trained ourselves to stop before printing out emails (seriously people!). But it’s still hard to imagine our lives without certain paper products. And the truth is about 14% of deforestation is done to satisfy our huge appetite for paper goods. This amounts to the destruction of around 4.1 million hectares of forest each year in the name of our paper obsession – an area the size of the Netherlands every 365 days.* Holy shit this is bad.