Saturday, January 13, 2007

Don't print this!

I'm always complaining to students about the amount of paper they waste. By the time they print work a few times, use worksheets, exam papers, make paper airplanes and get newsletters they must be well on the way to using the average office worker's 10,000 sheets per year.

Paper is environmentally expensive to produce and most people are not aware of it's effect on the environment.

So lets look at this on a 'per sheet' basis ; (standard copy paper).
  • Each sheet weighs about 5 grams
  • Just over 15 grams of wood are used to make it.
  • For each sheet 5 grams of sludge is produced which has to be disposed of.
  • To make each sheet requires 200KJ of energy of which 95KJ are bought in as coal/gas/oil or electricity.
  • Each sheet produces 12.9 grams of carbon dioxide during it's manufacture, transport and eventual disposal by decomposition or burning.
  • Each sheet used adds 6.1 grams of carbon dioxide to global warming (the remaining 6.8 g is used by the trees grown for the next sheet).
  • Each sheet of paper produces 0.06 gram of sulphur dioxide and 0.04 grams of nitrogen dioxide in it's manufacture. Both cause acid rain.
  • Each sheet adds a tiny amount of nasties such as dioxin to the environment.
  • Recycling means less trees are cut down but does not significantly affect the amount of undesirable gases produced due to it's reprocessing costs.
  • White recycled paper adds a disastrous amount of bleach and sludge to the environment. The ONLY sensible way to recycle paper is to use it for unbleached cardboard. Somehow, recycled brown toilet paper just doesn't appeal.
Now since that average office worker is using 10,000 sheets of paper per year this means they are adding:
  • 61Kg of CO2 to global warming
  • Using enough water to fill a small swimming pool
  • producing about 130Kg of acid rain causing gas.
  • adding 45 grams of 'nasties' to the environment
Make what you will of this article. Just one thing - don't print it!

Useful websites:
Paper Vs plastic bags?
The paper calculator