It's one of the most recycled products on the planet.
Ask someone what the Mobius loop is and you’ll probably get a blank stare. But show them a symbol formed by three arrows making a triangle, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who can’t tell you it’s the logo for recycling.
This instant “brand recognition” could earn recycling an award for the most successful awareness campaign in recordable history. Modern society has seen the merits of this core environmental principle, and its mass acceptance has helped make paper one of the most recycled products on the planet.
In fact, nearly 67% of paper used in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2011 according to the American Forest & Paper Association.1 This was more than any other material: only 35% of metal, 27% of glass and 8% of plastic is recycled, according to the EPA.2 Meanwhile, in Canada, 66% of paper used domestically were recovered and recycled in 2009 according to the Forest Products Assoication of Canada.3 Just think, all of this paper is being given a new lease on life and not going into the world’s already brimming landfills.
Paper recycling is easy and effective.
There are a lot of reasons why this is the case, and they start at the very beginning of the product life cycle. The most common raw material used to make paper is trees, a natural resource that regenerates itself or can be regenerated through plantings. And, contrary to what many say and believe, North America’s forests remain prolific. In fact the overall area of forestland today in the United States is nearly identical to what it was over a century ago.4 Part of the reason for this is the increased adoption of sound forest management practices because for every tree harvested in a managed forest, several more are replanted or naturally regenerated in its place. A kind of recycling at the source, if you will.
At the manufacturing level, modern papermaking practices ensure that no part of the wood harvested goes to waste. What isn’t used in actual paper production is transformed into energy that fuels the process. Domtar, for example, is 75% energy self-sufficient thanks to co-generation facilities at most of its facilities that use renewable fuels like spent cooking liquor and bark (aka biomass) to produce steam and electricity used by its mills.5 We also used over 150 million lbs of post-consumer fiber in the manufacture of our papers.
Initiatives like these undertaken by Domtar and other manufacturers, in combination with the sector’s commitment to responsibly managing forests and using resources, have helped make forestry, paper and packaging among the most sustainable industries in existence.6
While industry is doing its part to reduce the environmental impact of paper production, and governments are encouraging recycling programs, probably the biggest reason for the grass-roots appeal and success of this phenomenon is that anyone can make a genuine impact. As a consumer or end user, you can choose to use papers that contain recycled fiber, paper that comes from responsibly managed forests – or both! Also, you can be faithful about tossing your office paper, mail, used magazines, newspapers, packaging or other paper products into the recycling bin. With the average person using over 200 lbs of printing and writing paper every year, you can make a real difference for the environment by keeping your paper waste out of landfills. In other words, it’s in your power to contribute to the ongoing revolution of the Mobius loop!
1 Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
2 Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2010, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
3 Forest Products Association of Canada, www.fpac.ca
4 U.S. Forest Facts and Historical Trends, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, 2000
5 2009 Sustainable Growth Report, Domtar
6 CEO Perspectives 2008, Price Waterhouse Coopers