No paper is better than recycled paper

With plastics flooding everything, paper and cardboard are the packaging materials of the future. So, paper use is projected to rise.

No worries, we use recycled, right? This paper by Lloyd Alter in Treehugger (excuse the pun) shows the problem with that. According to his research, the energy use of paper recycling is more than that of entire countries.

The process is as energy-intensive as steel-making, something I found hard to believe: ”you need as much energy to make a tonne of paper as you do to make a tonne of steel.” The reason is that pulping and drying take a lot of energy.

The paperless office also has problems: the environmental and humanitarian damage of mining for rare minerals and the disaster of electronic waste.

What’s going on? What can we do?

The answer is in Mankind at the Turning Point: The second report of the Club of Rome. One conclusion was that you can use technology to solve any problem, but, inevitably and necessarily, the solution makes one or more other problems worse. Isn’t that what we’ve just seen with paper recycling?

I found this report inspiring when it was published in 1974, because it validated my personal research, and has set me on my lifetime path of living simply, so we may simply live. Since 1978, my wife and I have been doing our personal best to sabotage the global economy by deliberately living on the lowest income we could. If everyone had followed our pattern, today’s problems would be far more manageable, or perhaps not there at all.

So, one more bit of homework: have a look at my essay, (should I say paper?) How to change the world.

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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6 Responses to No paper is better than recycled paper

  1. Annie Hill-Otness says:

    The idea that paperless documents are environmentally clean fails to take into account the massive use of energy (usually provided by coal burning power plants) used store data in large vulnerable buildings. It’s between a rock and a hard place to decide what’s the least worst.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Annie. That’s exactly my point. It is the total that needs to be reduced, not shuffling ingredients. You know, “If you don’t want to get drunk, drink less whisky.” “OK, I can switch to gin to trouble.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • annieoz says:

      As humans seem to be addicted to Power – I feel there’s some hope in the use of renewables – but ultimately, I agree – if we want to leave a habitable planet, it all comes down to using less resources, and sustainably managing what resources we have.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dr Bob Rich says:

        Thank you Annie. I had a look at your profile and it is very impressive. I don’t have the gift of visual art, and admire people who do.
        Of course, power can mean two things. It is certainly convenient to have electric power, but after all, humans have lived without it for a quarter of a million years. We couldn’t chat like this without it.
        Power over others? The idea makes me shiver. If you appointed me dictator of earth, I’d form a council of the wisest, least selfish people I could find — and leave them to it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. pendantry says:

    ”you need as much energy to make a tonne of paper as you do to make a tonne of steel.”

    Wow. That’s a real eye-opener. And one thing it does is reinforce my belief that ‘carbon capture and storage’ is a crock.

    We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking That Created Them — Albert Einstein

    Liked by 1 person

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