5 Environmental Impacts of the Paper Industry

The world’s forests are shrinking every day, and part of that reason is for paper production. Every minute, the equivalent of 36 football fields of forests are cut down or destroyed around the globe. This disrupts the animal and plant populations and oftentimes causes a decline in population numbers. In fact, the loss of habitat has caused many of the world’s bird populations to decline.

The Reasons for Deforestation

There are several reasons forests are shrinking and disappearing. Most fall between, building, mining, logging, and clearing for agriculture. Other reasons include forest fires and landslides. Many of them happen because of humans though, but there are ways we can save some trees. Listed below is information on the environmental impact of the paper industry.

The Environmental Impact of Paper

To make the product, machinery turns the wood into pulp. The pulp is a combination of the wood fibers, water, and other chemicals that are pressed into the sheets we use every day. Though we often claim paper is better for the environment than other materials, there are many products that are not even recyclable. The production is not kind to the environment either. Here are just a few ways the paper industry harms the environment.

logging, paper, mills, pollution, deforestation

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Chemical Pollution

Though certain guidelines restrict the number of toxic chemicals used to make paper, its production is on the rise. This means that there is still an increase in toxic chemical use. These chemicals bleach the pulp, prevent bacteria growth, and remove the lignin (which makes wood rigid and sturdy) from the wood. Unfortunately, many companies allow these chemicals to pollute our waterways.

Air Pollution

Paper mills release gases like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxides, nitrous oxides, and carbon monoxide. This is also not to mention the particulate matter released into the air. These greenhouse gases contribute to poor air quality (which further leads to respiratory issues), global warming, and acid rain.

Water Use

Because paper mills need water to produce pulp, they use an extensive amount of this precious natural resource. With all the chemicals added to it, the water becomes toxic and unsafe. If we used less paper, less water would be wasted in its production.

Energy Use

The papermaking process is so energy intensive, many mills could use their own power plant. This massive use of energy creates even more greenhouse gases, especially if the plants generate electricity from fossil fuels.

Solid Waste

There are many kinds of paper that we cannot send off to be recycled, so it sits in landfills for years. For the paper that can be recycled, it can only go through so many recycling processes before it is too weak to create quality paper. These leftovers become solid waste along with the coatings, dyes, and inks. They then go to the landfill.

Look for Alternatives

Deforestation is a serious problem that will not get better unless we act. You can go paperless or use a green alternative. Sugarcane and bamboo are popular options because they grow much faster than trees. You can also plant trees to make up for some of the ones we have already lost. Each of these things will help us to better take care of the Earth.

Image Source: Pixabay

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Lacey Jolley
 

I love exploring, experiencing new places, and eating good food! I'm amazed every day at how well the Earth provides for us, and I want to return the favor. I hope to help others learn how we can make our world a better, cleaner place.

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