Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Be Green: Don't recycle paper.

I worked out yesterday that not-recycling paper is better for the environment than recycling. Aside from the sludge created from washing the ink off used paper, I did some rough calculations using info from the Energy Information Administration, to find that recylcling paper probably leads to more greenhouse gas emissions that recycling. Sure, you get some greenhouse gas savings from the energy savings from recylcing paper (but actually not that much because much of the energy used comes from wood chips, a carbon-neutral source), but you get a huge gain because paper in a landfill sequesters the carbon underground, and not in the atmosphere, just like a forest. And beyond that, not-recycling increases demand for paper (which in the US is made from farmed trees), which hence incresees forest land, further reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Anyway, made me feel a lot better about the huge piles of the largely unread Sunday New York Times (I pretty much subscribe only for the magazine) I toss out each week because my apartment doesn't recycle.

2 comments:

Ciona said...

Energy comparison charts:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/recycle/recycle.html

HoBs said...

Interesting.

Here is the report from which the charts derive from
http://epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/waste/downloads/r99fina.pdf

So I would certainly trust these estimates over my back of the envelope calculations.

The report mentions, but does not account for the market response I was talking about. In equilibrium, less recycling means planting more trees to meet the increased demand for wood.

They account for it somewhat, but not comprehensively I don't think.