Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Paper Jam!

Did you know that each day, American businesses generate enough paper to circle the globe at least 40 times! Many of these papers come from our offices. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, an estimated 41 percent of solid waste is paper. In a typical office, different kinds of paper including newspapers, magazines, packages, boxboard, paper bags, and all other grades of paper, can make up to 80 percent of the solid waste.

It is possible to achieve significant reductions in the cost of buying office paper by reducing paper use and reusing paper possible. One potential means of handling this material is through recycling. Why recycle office paper? Consider an office paper recycling program an opportunity to:

  • Obtain revenue from sale of computer and highgrade white paper;

  • Lower waste disposal costs;

  • Create a good public image;

  • Conserve trees;

  • Reduce air, water and land pollution; and

  • Extend the life of landfills.

Office paper recycling most often requires a minimum of 500 to 1,000 pounds of paper per pickup. Smaller quantities can usually be delivered to a waste-paper dealer. A program that includes an entire building is best, but a small office program will also work.

Paper dealers will provide their guidelines and restrictions for what papers they will accept and how they want the paper prepared such as what level of foreign matter (called contaminants), volume, containers, among others.

The grades of office paper for recycling include:

  • Computer print-out (high grade): color barred or blank. Commercial forms or primers' inks are usually not acceptable.

  • White ledger (high grade): non-glossy, printed or unprinted white, including letterhead, typing, writing and copy machine paper.

  • Colored ledger: non-glossy, printed or unprinted colored paper.

  • Mixed office paper (lower grade): unsorted paper including: office paper; manila folders; white, colored and glossy paper; junk mail; tabulating cards; pamphlets; brochures. This mix does not include: newsprint, phone books, magazines, Pendaflex or brown Kraft envelopes.

  • Groundwood computer paper (low grade): looks like phone book paper.

  • Corrugated cardboard (low grade).

The most commonly recycled papers are computer paper, white ledger paper, colored ledger paper and mixed office paper. Mixing paper grades usually drops the price of all the paper to the price of the lowest grade included in the mix.

Waste has become an increasingly difficult environmental and economic problem, one which affects us all and to which we all contribute. Individuals, at home or at work, have a vital role to play in schemes to reduce waste.

Today's complex, technologically-based society, combined with population growth, has led to the current enormous waste problem. As more businesses and organizations consider the effects of their activities on the environment, waste generated at work, most especailly office papers are increasingly receiving attention. More and more, the production of waste is seen as a form of inefficiency and misuse of resources, which has both economic and environmental implications for individual companies, and the country as a whole.

The fewer changes office people must make in their daily routines to recycle, the greater the chances for success. Everyone can make a difference to save the environment. Even if you are just sitting there in front of your computer at the office.

Resource Box : Cecill Artates is a freelance writer for a women's magazine who covers environmental topics. She also conducts paper recycling training to women in disadvantaged communities.

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