Given short term political and economic and social changes, proponents of sustainable development often adjust by adopting a long term optimistic view of the development process.
A quick paper recycling review reminds us of the many reasons to remain sustainable development optimistic.
Whether considered from a government statistics point of view, industry statistics point of view, or individual reflections on paper recycling habits over time, paper recycling remains a success story in the recycling industry.
According to statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States, December 2011 edition, paper and paperboard recycling grounded today’s recycling ethic.
In 1960, for example, less than 20% of all paper products were recycled, moving to a 60% plus recycling rate by 2010. Within the paper recycling sector over that fifty year period, container board, known mostly to consumers as cardboard boxes and newspapers competed for the title of most recycled paper product.
Current statistics from The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) show that in 2012, Container Board recovery rates (91%) exceed newspaper recovery rates (70.4%).
Efficiency measures by many producers such as using scrap materials in production, generally lowers the cost of production, making recycled container board very market competitive.
Changing social habits, especially the integration of the Internet into our every day lives also explains some of the more recent short term recycling trends.
The steady increase in on line shopping for goods on both the major Internet branded sites and the smaller family business sites, translated into increased overall demand for container box production.
On the other hand, the news sector of the Internet created downward pressure on newspaper production. Again, AF&PA statistics show that between 1993 and 2012, newsprint supply decreased by almost fifty percent from approximately fifteen million tons to today’s approximately eighth and one-half million tons. Total container board supply during that same time period increased from twenty nine million tons to thirty two million tons.
Wide spread adoption of curbside recycling programs in cities across the United States reminds us how weekly newspaper and cardboard recycling habits also contributed to our current paper recycling ethic.
A quick review of historical statistics provides an optimist sustainable development perspective for the next twenty to fifty year time frame.
Consumer awareness of the benefits associated with paperless banking and credit card accounting continues to increase. The introduction of hand held reading devices and the marketing of E-books and E-zines could transform the print publication world within twenty years. With recent trends in mind, and taking into consideration some packaging and shipping container exceptions, the continued influence of the Internet could lead to a paper free United States society as well as a paper free global society in a fifty year time span.
That optimism extends to other long term sustainable development sectors of society. Slow and steady change in American lawn care attitude transition from a lawn trimmings disposal ethic to a lawn trimmings recycling ethic, paved the way for today’s very successful and profitable yard care industry.
Away from the recycling industry, long term statistical trends in other economic sectors such as renewable energy also relay optimism. Efficiency conversion levels for basic polycrystalline solar panels, for example, have increased over fifty percent in the past twenty years.
Sustainable development success stories abound on the Internet. One need only type in the keywords to any search engine to find those that mirror the paper recycling success story.
This brief paper recycling review suggests that slow and steady habitual practices do effectively compliment longer term grand sustainable development strategies.
2013 Patricia A. Michaels: Fifteen years experience as an independent environment and nature writer, mostly with Green Nature.
- Think Green Thursdays: Recycling Paper Is Important! (hothits957.cbslocal.com)
- Philosophy of Recycling…Paper (lifeaswedontyetknowit.wordpress.com)
- Change the World, One Green Office at A Time (greenerideal.com)