Does the use of paper matter in environmental terms?

Put another way, should we be trying harder to move towards the paperless office?

In fact the paper making industry has moved very quickly in recent years to make itself sustainable, and well under 10% of the paper we use now is harvested from old growth forests, which cannot be replaced easily.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, recycling now recovers over 43% of all paper used and virtually all paper makers substitute ever increasing amounts of recycled paper for virgin wood in the pulp-making stage.  So even though the growth in the use of recycled paper has not been as big as some would want, virtually all of the paper we get contains growing amounts of recycled content.

What’s more, the stalks of crops such as wheat, oat, barley are now being combined with recycled paper and other fillers and can result in paper of the highest quality.

We could, of course, go much further and use hemp as a substitute for wood.  This idea has been around for 2000 years, but the problem is that despite the rich history of using hemp (the American Declaration of Independence was written on hemp), hemp is frowned upon as a substance as it is a variety of  cannabis and thus considered to be a Bad Thing.  (This is maybe why people in America are more likely to remember that the first paper merchant in the USA was Benjamin Franklin, who launched a whole chain of paper mills in Virginia, rather than the material the Declaration was written on.)

Anyway, back to the issue of recycling. The big benefit of using recycled or part recycled paper is that it uses less water and less energy – often around 50% of the energy level of working with non-recycled paper. This is because there is no “pulping” in the use of recycled paper.

What’s more, the production of recycled paper generates less air pollution, because most recycled paper is not bleached, which is a major pollutant in the process.

So paper isn’t such a bad thing overall – and that’s why we keep using it, despite the advent of digital technology.

All that is left is the issue of storage, which is where we come in.

There’s information about our storage on our website – www.archive-document-storage.co.uk

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