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September : Five reasons why paper rocks

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5 September, 2017

Five reasons why paper rocks

Five reasons paper rocks

Boxes. Labels. Books. Your child's first report card or a tissue for their first heartbreak. All made from paper; a renewable, recyclable material that is an intricate, often invisible part of our lives. The Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA) shares its reasons why paper is good. 

1.          It's versatile
From the moment we wake up to when we nod off with book in hand, paper is there. It is categorised into three principal categories - printing and writing grades, packaging and tissue.

Paper in its most common form - A4 copy paper - is the start of something, a blank canvas, a new project or design, or your first book. It communicates and informs - from news and advertising to the label on the coffee jar, the medicine box insert and the month-end supermarket specials. Paper educates - from your child's first reader in Grade 1 to their last matric exam.

Paper packages and protects. From our eggs, teabags and cereal, and milk and juice in liquid cartons, to medicine and cosmetics. And let's not forget that new computer equipment for the office or your online shopping order.

It entertains - from the bestseller of your favourite author to a night at the movies with popcorn, a drink and a box of chocolates.

Facial and toilet tissue, kitchen towel and baby and feminine products help to improve our lives through convenience and hygiene.

2.          It's renewable
In South Africa, paper is produced from farmed trees. Some 600 million trees are grown over 762,000 hectares for the very purpose of making pulp and paper.

"If it wasn't for commercially grown trees, our indigenous forests would have been eradicated years ago to meet our fibre, fuel and furniture needs," explains Jane Molony, executive director of the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (PAMSA). "Sustainable, commercial forests have a vital role to play in curbing deforestation and mitigating climate change."

As with most agricultural crops, trees are planted in rotation. Once mature - after about 15-20 years, trees are harvested. Only 9% of the total plantation area is harvested annually. New saplings are planted in the same year, at an average rate 260,000 new trees per day, or one and a half saplings per harvested tree.

This is what makes the paper that we source from wood renewable.

3.          It's recyclable
Recovered paper - the paper and cardboard that we put in our recycling bins - is a valuable raw material and South Africa has been using it as an alternative fibre in papermaking since 1920.

Given that there is limited land suitable for the commercial growing of trees, virgin fibre (from trees) is supplemented with recovered paper. Conversely, we will always need an injection of virgin fibre into the paper recycling process as paper is not infinitely recyclable.

In 2016, 68.4% of recoverable paper was recycled - recoverable paper excludes the likes of books and archived records, and items that are contaminated or destroyd when used: tissue, hygiene products, and cigarette paper.

South Africa's paper recovery rate has increased 2% year on year, and is well above the global average of 58% (2015).

4.          It's good for the environment
Working forests provide clean air, clean water, and ,managed conservation of wetlands, grasslands and biodiversity.

Farmed trees are efficient carbon sinks. Every year, South Africa's commercial forests are estimated to capture 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases, in turn releasing 15 million tonnes of life-giving oxygen ... Memory jog back to that primary school science lesson on photosynthesis.

The carbon remains locked up even after the wood is chipped, pulped and made into the many items we use every day. This is a good reason to recycle as it keeps this carbon locked up for even longer. Sent to the landfill, paper will naturally degrade along with wet waste and add to unnecessary emissions.

Recycling is a space saver too: one tonne of paper saves three cubic metres of landfill space - and the associated costs. The 1.4 million tonnes of recyclable paper and paper packaging diverted from landfill in 2016 could fill 1,680 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The use of biomass-based renewable energy has reduced the paper industry's reliance on 1,3 million tonnes of fossil fuels every year, as well as the associated emissions which are offset by trees grown for papermaking.

5.          It's good for the economy
Not only does paper manufacturing add Rxxbn to the GDP, the growing and harvesting of trees, making paper products and recycling them provides sustainable jobs for thousands of people.

And let's not forget the jobs of engineers and researchers who design advanced technologies and processes that make pulping, papermaking and paper recycling more energy and water-efficient, and the artisans and operators that keep paper production moving.

Add to this the downstream value chains which rely on paper to produce their products including printing and publishing, media, marketing and advertising, and the myriad of sectors which use paper-based packaging to protect their goods during transit.

"Any which way you look at it, paper, tissue and paper-based packaging are essential to every day, and this is a good thing - for our economy and for our environment," says Molony. "Paper is one of the oldest technologies, with research, development and innovation happening the world over to make more efficient use of trees, water and energy. Paper is a great story."

For more information, visit www.thepaperstory.co.za. Find on Twitter @PaperRocks_SA and Instagram @paperrocksza.

Source: PAMSA

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