Cradle to Cradle: Newspapers

Rachel Buigas-Lopez 6th

How it’s made

  • Today's paper fiber comes mainly from two sources -- pulpwood logs and recycled paper products. In fact, much of the paper we use every day is a blend of new and recycled fiber.

  • Much of the paper produced is made from the tree parts from logging and sawmill operations that can't be made into lumber. After harvesting, trees are cut into logs and are transported to the mill. At the mill, a debarker removes the bark from each log. The log is cut into boards of varying sizes. The wood that's left over is then converted into wood chips, about the size of corn flakes.

  • The wood chips are then put into "pulp digesters" where they are broken down by steam and chemicals into a jelly of cellulose fibers and other wood components. In another process, the chemicals, wood resins, and wood lignin (sort of a natural glue in the wood) are removed. The cellulose fibers are cleaned and screened many times to get them ready to be made into paper.
  • The paper pulp (from wood chips, recycled paper, or both) is fed into the paper-making machine. A pump sprays a thin layer of the liquid paper pulp onto a moving wire screen. This screen can be up to 20 feet wide, and can travel at speeds of 60 miles per hour.
  • As the pulp is carried along by the screen, the water in it drops away, and the cellulose fibers become matted together, forming paper. While the paper is still damp, it is fed through a series of heated rollers which press it and dry it. The paper is then spooled into huge rolls, cut into various sizes, and converted into paper products.
  • Recycling paper helps make sure we get the most out of every tree we use. And it helps keep paper from clogging up our landfills. Each time paper is recycled, the cellulose fibers get shorter, until eventually the paper won't hold together. That's why most "recycled" papers contain some new paper fibers mixed in with the old.

How long does it take for these materials to break down? Are they toxic for the environment or harm living things?

Based on volume, paper the largest element in American landfills. Normally, it takes 2-6 weeks in landfills to get completely decomposed.

Because of its consumption of energy, the industry — which includes magazines, newspapers, catalogs and writing paper — emits the fourth-highest level of carbon dioxide among manufacturers, according to a 2002 study by the Energy Information Administration, a division of the Department of Energy.

Evaluate the impact of the three R's (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) on preserving Earth's biodiversity.

Today the massive amounts of waste being produced on a global scale pose a major threat to biodiversity. When you reduce, the less garbage you generate, the less you'll contribute to the loss of biodiversity when natural habitats are used for landfills. When you reuse, you also produce less garbage which means less loss of biodiversity from expanding landfills. When you recycle, you are allowing it to be converted to something useful again rather than being added to a landfill.