Reducing the Environmental Impact of Paper Disposal

Paper is one of the most widely recycled materials on the planet and yet every year, tons of it still goes to landfill where – surprising fact – it can become an environmental hazard. How?

When landfill is compressed to reduce volume, it becomes anaerobic (‘without oxygen’). Paper will still decompose without oxygen but produces methane, a greenhouse gas which is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. To reduce this threat, landfill sites extract and burn the methane, but this still produces carbon dioxide which is also harmful to the environment.

For each tonne of paper recycled, three cubic metres of paper are saved from going to landfill, so let’s look at what recycling has to offer.

What Are the Benefits of Recycling Paper?

Recycling paper has significant environmental advantages:

  1. Toxic chemicals such as toluene, methanol, and formaldehyde which are harmful to the environment are needed to break down the fibres of fresh wood to produce paper-making pulp
  2. Paper made from recycled pulp reduces water pollution by 35% and air pollution by 74% compared with paper made from virgin pulp
  3. Each tonne of 100% recycled paper produced saves 3,799 kWh of electricity compared with non-recycled paper
  4. Recycled paper production emits 40% fewer greenhouse gases, uses 26% less energy and creates 43% less waste water

If recycling has such clear benefits, why is so much paper still not being recycled?

What Are the Barriers to Recycling Office Wastepaper?

One barrier to recycling paper in the office environment can be the inconvenience of carrying wastepaper from the office to assigned recycling bins that may be on another floor or even located outside the building.

If wastepaper is added to general office waste, it must be segregated before it can be placed in the recycling bin. Depending on the size of the organisation, this can create additional non-essential duties or even require additional staff.

Why Can’t I Put Shredded Paper in My Recycling Bin?

Shredding reduces the size of paper fibres and for that reason, many recycling providers will not accept shredded paper. This is because it is too small for their sorter and falls into general waste.

Shredded paper will therefore be burned or sent to landfill. Either way, it is harmful to the environment.

Where Can I Find Safe and Environmentally Friendly Document Destruction?

Securall® from Norfolk-based Avena Group is a secure document destruction system that streamlines the disposal, destruction and recycling of all office wastepaper.

Under its ‘total shred’ policy, every piece of paper – confidential or otherwise – goes into a secure console that prevents retrieval of discarded documents. This means that all recyclable paper is segregated as soon as it is discarded and is removed by Avena on a regular, pre-planned schedule.

Avena also cares for the environment and to reduce landfill and prevent air pollution, they only work with UK mills who accept shredded paper and turn it into recycled paper products.