Ecology

Why is it important to recycle paper and cardboard

Both paper and cardboard are two of the most common waste in most of the world’s paper mills. In fact, it is estimated that, in Spain, 40% of the garbage we dispose of is cellulose, which is the main substance that makes up paper and cardboard. However, the use of this material has a considerable environmental impact.

What is paper

Paper is a material that is made mainly from cellulose . Cellulose is a substance that is obtained from plant matter, mainly from trees. Cellulose is the main component of the membrane of the cells that make up plants and, to obtain it, it is necessary to crush large amounts of plant matter. Then, once the cellulose has been obtained, it is subjected to different treatments that allow the sheets of paper to be created. Depending on the type of paper to be produced, the methods will be of one type or another. However, most of the time, these will be processes that will include certain polluting chemicals. A good example is found in the use of chlorine , which allows the paper to be whitened to the characteristic snowy tone of paper sheets.

On the other hand, in the case of cardboard , we would be talking about the same manufacturing process. However, in this case it is a question of creating thicker layers of cellulose than when making paper and, in most cases, it is not bleached. Despite this, it is important that we understand that it is a material that is manufactured from the same base substance : cellulose. Which also explains that its recycling can be carried out jointly.

Why is it important to recycle paper and cardboard

Recycling paper and cardboard is important because it reduces the number of trees that have to be cut down to make paper. Because so much paper and cardboard are made from cellulose obtained from trees, if the cellulose can be recovered from the unusable paper and cardboard, it can be reused in the manufacture of new paper and cardboard, which will avoid logging of many trees. In fact, to give us an idea, for every ton of paper and cardboard that is recycled, on average, 18 trees are cut down .

As we all know, plants, and especially trees, are of fundamental importance in conserving life and ecosystems on Earth. Trees are responsible for producing the oxygen that animals breathe. But, in addition, they also have the ability to reduce the pollution present in the atmosphere and that causes respiratory diseases, especially to people who live in cities and where pollution is greater. On the other hand, we cannot forget the simple but very important fact that the oxygen produced by trees is made from the CO2 present in the air, the main GHG (Greenhouse Gas) that is the cause of climate change in our planet.

On the other hand, recycling paper and cardboard also has a positive impact on reducing the amount of waste we generate. In this way, a significant part of the waste that would end up in incinerators or, worse still, wasted in the environment is reduced . In this sense, it is important to bear in mind that, although the cellulose in paper and cardboard is a biodegradable material, when this happens, many of the chemicals used in the manufacture of paper are also released into the environment, such as chlorine. This ends up polluting the ecosystem, so that, although it is a less visible garbage than another, it is not at all a “harmless” garbage in natural spaces.

How paper and cardboard are recycled

To recycle paper and cardboard, the first thing to do is collect it. This is done through the blue container , which is the one destined for this type of waste. Later, this waste is collected by local garbage trucks and transported to a recycling center, where the recycling process itself will begin :

  1. The first thing that is done in these paper and cardboard recycling centers is to separate the waste that can be recycled from those that cannot.
  2. Once these wastes have been separated again, they begin a process in which they go through different machines that are responsible for shredding the paper and cardboard and adding water to the whole.
  3. In this way, little by little, an increasingly thin mass is obtained which, in its final phase, is very similar to that of the original paper, although with more impurities.

In fact, because there are certain impurities that cannot be eliminated, it is common to see recycled paper in uses that do not require a very fine finish, such as toilet paper, napkin paper or wrapping cardboard. However, through the use of new treatments, high quality recycled paper can also be obtained, which can be used, for example, in the manufacture of folios.

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