How Recycling Paper Fights Global Warming

recycling paper fights global warming

Global climate change may have significant environmental and economic consequences for the U.S. and other nations.

For every ton of recovered paper that is converted into new recycled paperboard for packaging and other end uses, 3.6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions are eliminated.

Recycling paper reduces emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming in three important ways.

1. Paper recycling prevents methane emissions from landfills.

First, when paper is not recycled, 80% of it ends up in landfills. Decomposition of the paper in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas with 21 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide (CO2). U.S. EPA has identified landfills as the single largest source of methane emissions in the U.S., and the decomposition of paper is the largest contributor to the methane being generated.

If paper is recycled, it doesn’t end up in the waste stream, headed for a landfill where it will degrade and generate methane. Simply put, the less paper landfilled, the less methane emitted.

2. Paper recycling leaves more trees standing so they can absorb more CO2.

100% recycled paper requires no trees to produce. Trees left standing pull carbon out of the air, a process called carbon sequestration, which is one way to reduce the impact of industrial CO2 emissions.

3. Paper recycling requires less energy.

Manufacturing new paper out of recycled paper requires less energy than making paper out of wood. Production of 100% recycled paperboard uses 50 percent less energy compared to virgin grades of paperboard, thus significantly reducing the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.