Office Paper Recycling Essay Research Paper I

Office Paper Recycling Essay, Research Paper

I. Introduction

Environmental science is concerned with the global impact of human activity on the planet. Indeed, at the dawn of this new century, close to 25 percent of the earth?s usable water is contaminated. In addition, during the last hundred years, we have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, by burning fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum and in so doing we have increased the amount of gases in the atmosphere. The result is that more heat is trapped in the system, increasing the global temperature by 1? C (about 1.8? F).

Because the earth is a closed system, these issues are of major concern to environmentalists. As the ?Gaia Hypothesis? states it, we are sustained by a single living system, meaning that we rely on it for our survival, in which all the parts are interconnected and everything we do affects it globally. For instance, as more heat is trapped in the atmosphere, the temperature increases, affecting precipitation, the rain becomes acid, which in turn affect our food production and our fresh water supply, ultimately it affects all the living system on the planet. Basically, in such a system there is no ?away? in ?throwing away,? hence, over the last decade people and companies started being aware of it and therefore acknowledged the need to ?recycle.?

II. Recycling

Recycling refers to collecting and reprocessing resources into new products. The resources on earth are not all renewable, and recycling means that we could create systems where wastes become resources again, which is called closed-loop recycling.

?Recycling paper involves removing its ink, glue, and coating and reconverting it to pulp that is pressed again into new paper. This process brakes down some of the paper fibers, requiring addition of some new pulp to maintain paper strength.?

III. Recycling at American University

Ten years ago the District of Columbia mandated recycling programs for schools and colleges, at this time tough, only ten percent of American University?s waste was recycled. However, the American University started a more efficient recycling project in May 1999, as the contracted a new company, the Consolidated Waste Industry (CWI), to recycle its waste.

Besides, A.U. buys its office paper to Boise Cascade Corporation, which is environmentally conscious and sustains the forests. Paper is essentially made of wood, which is crushed into small pieces, and mixed with water and chemicals

The Physical Plant at A.U. collects the trash, which is then picked up by CWI and brought to a warehouse where it is dumped on the floor on a conveyor belt and separated. Most of the office papers are already disposed in special bins at A.U. and usually they do not need to be separated from the rest of the trash. Then, this company sells it to another company, First Fiber, in Pennsylvania, which actually recycles it. According to Jan Lambert, the paper goes into a mill where the ink is removed and the contaminants are taken off. Then, the rest of the recycling process involves washing the paper with water in a blender, requiring 5,000 gallons per two tons of paper. The paper is converted into pulp and laid on a web, where it is pressed and dried, to be cut into sheets again. Unfortunately we were not told if the company uses chemicals in the process, although Lambert said the water was recycled. .

Nevertheless, every ton of paper that is recycled saves about 1.4 cube meter (about 50 cube feet) of landfill space. One ton of recycled paper saves 17 pulpwood trees (trees used to produce paper). According to Mark Fiest at A.U., the college now recycles 50 percent of its waste due to this program, which is successful.

IV. Evaluation

Based on the information we received, and as far as A.U. is concerned, it seems to be a closed-loop-recycling program, which is a success. Considering that in a couple years the amount of waste recycled increased from ten to 50 percent, however further researches show that chemicals are used to process the paper, which is then transported in trucks, which release CO2 in the atmosphere. In addition, Lambert did not explained us how the water is recycled, chances are that it must be a chemical process that uses a lot of energy.

Currently, there is no agreement on what the term “recycled paper” means, apart from the fact that it contains recovered fiber, according to the organization Consevatree. Furthermore out of all the paper we use, very little is totally chlorine-free, or tree-free or recycled.

Thus, the problem remains, since corporation like Boise Cascade can create their own definition of ?protecting the environment? and CWI can define ?recycling? in a suitable way for their business.

When I asked Fiest about using recycling paper in A.U., he said that only SIS and the Physical Plant department use some and that it is not mandatory. Apparently, increasing the demand for recycled paper would spare a lot of energy in terms of bleaching paper with chemicals over and over again. The point is that A.U.? s effort is definitely a step toward a more self-sustained system, but as long as it rely on outside providers to bring and collect the paper, the loop is not 100 percent closed, nor efficient.

Recycling Project: Office Paper


Bio 250

June 2000

Consevatree Greenline. Available at:

Environmental Protection Agency. Available at:

Miller, Tyler G. Jr. “Living in the Environment”, (Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole publishing company, 2000).

Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, (1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation)

National Recycling Coalition. Available at:


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