Paper Recycling: An Economic Analysis

Read Complete Research Material

Paper Recycling: An Economic Analysis

Paper Recycling: An Economic Analysis


Every year more than 11 million tonnes of paper and board are consumed in the UK (Pulp and Paper International, 2007). Much of this comes from Scandinavia. In order to satisfy our increasing demand for wood and paper products, the majority of the natural boreal forest in Scandinavia has been converted into intensively managed secondary forest or plantations, where the inhabitants of a true and complex forest eco-system struggle to survive. About 5% of Scandinavian old-growth forest remains, and yet this is still being logged (Taiga Rescue Network, 2007). As a result, hundreds of plant and animal species are endangered. The traditional way of life of indigenous people, such as the Saami, is also threatened and their cultural identity is in jeopardy.

Despite the ecological and human cost of paper production we continue to throw vast amounts of this resource away after using it only once, even though the capability exists to recycle much of it. Less than half of the paper used in the UK is recovered and over five million tonnes gets dumped in landfill sites adding to the mounting waste disposal problem faced by this country and many others around the world.

Yet if paper is recycled the amount of waste going to landfill is cut and less timber is used. Managing our insatiable demand for timber should reduce the need to clear old growth forests, rich in biodiversity, which must instead be protected from commercial logging.

Despite these clear benefits of paper recycling it has been criticised both as a product and as a process. It has been suggested that producing recycled paper uses more energy than virgin paper production, is more polluting and may make a greater contribution to climate change. Such arguments have been used to promote the view that it is preferable to incinerate paper to produce energy rather than to recycle it (Collins, 2006).

This briefing examines the arguments surrounding the potential environmental impacts of paper recycling in relation to energy use, pollution, contribution to climate change and in comparison to incineration as a waste management option. Market barriers to increased recycling are explored, along with waste paper recovery rates in the UK and other countries. Throughout, the term recycled paper refers to post-consumer waste i.e. paper that has been used and is then recycled.

Economic Analysis

Energy - Fossil Fuel Use Vs Bio fuels

Energy is needed to manufacture both virgin paper and recycled paper but much less total energy is needed to produce recycled paper (Koay, 2002). Industry quotes for typical energy savings from producing recycled paper range from about 28%-70% (Ogilvie, 2002). The amount of energy saved will depend on paper grade, processing, mill operation and proximity to a waste paper source and markets. Moreover, technical improvements to reduce energy use are possible by introducing incremental design improvements at each step of the papermaking process (Scott, 2004).

Energy savings are particularly applicable to recycling of newsprint, according to one study (Personen, 2005). This is because production of mechanical pulp ...
Related Ads