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The benefits of recycling

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Estimates from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) predict total paper consumption to rise from the current 400-million tonnes to between 450-million and 500-million tonnes by 2020 – and South African businesses are being urged to realise the vast environmental and business benefits of recycling unwanted paper.

This is according to Dorota Boltman, divisional director of Metrofile group company Rainbow Paper Management, who says – in light of World Environment Day on 5 June 2012 – that industrialised paper making negatively effects the environment in two ways: deforestation to make the paper, and the unnecessary use of landfill space.

“Approximately 90% of paper pulp is made of wood equating to 35% of all trees felled going towards paper production and paper waste accounts for 35% of global municipal landfill space.

“The case for recycling paper is multiple: a cleaner environment, job creation, reduced costs to local authorities, decreased necessity to import raw materials and freeing up space at landfill sites.

“The fact is, no matter what size the business, every company uses paper and has the opportunity to make a difference towards saving the environment for future generations.”

Boltman says there are many benefits for businesses that recycle paper. “Recycling at work helps reduce the environmental impact of the organisation because it means the paper can be used again in new products and applications, instead of simply going to landfill space.

“Recycling also enhances a company’s image and can even result in increased customer loyalty as the organisation becomes a preferred business partner as it is known to be environmentally conscious.”

Boltman says recycling also saves space and can reduce clutter in the office resulting in an improved working environment. “It is actually really easy to implement a recycling initiative in the workplace by simply placing recycle bins in convenient locations, such as close to employees’ desks or printers. Workplaces can even reuse envelopes for internal circulation.

“Once all employees are effectively educated about the recycling process in the workplace it can increase employee morale as staff then feel proud to belong to an organisation that embodies environmentally sound values and gives attention towards its environmental impact and responsibilities.

“Business all over South Africa must begin to realise that recycling is a lot simpler than they think and they are then able to reap the many rewards of being an environmentally aware organisation,” Bartman says.

According to the Paper Recycling Association of South Africa, for every ton of paper recycled:

* Three square meters of landfill space is saved. This reduces costs to municipalities in that their transport costs are reduced and it frees up space at landfill sites.

* 17 trees are put to other uses. Trees sequester carbon. (It is noteworthy that growing trees for paper manufacture is done in a responsible way; trees are a renewable resource and in South Africa, 80% of our plantations are FSC certified – the highest in the world).

* A substantial amount of energy is saved – energy saved from paper recycling in South Africa per annum is sufficient to provide electricity to 512 homes for a year.


    All paper in South Africa is produced from plantation-grown trees, recycled paper or bagasse (sugar cane fibre). Plantation-grown trees are farmed for paper, just as maize is planted for cereals and wheat for bread. Our fibre is not sourced from the wood of rainforests, indigenous or boreal trees. This is a myth, often wrongfully perpetuated by e-mail footnotes. In South Africa, 600 million trees across 762,000 hectares are specifically grown for use in pulp and paper manufacture and the industry plants in excess of 260,000 trees every single day.

    Plantations are atmospheric carbon sinks which mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) and releasing oxygen through the natural process of photosynthesis. South Africa’s timber plantations, which cater for pulp and paper, furniture and other wood based-products, lock up 900 million tons of CO2 — a key environmental service and a means of mitigating climate change. (Forestry South Africa, 2011) Only 9% of the total plantation area is harvested annually. This is replanted within the same year. Only mature trees are harvested. Carbon absorption continues as the new trees grow and young trees are able to absorb carbon more rapidly than the older trees. These trees, and thus paper products, are a renewable resource.

    The Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa –