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.