The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) as “everyday items we use and then throw away, such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, paint, and batteries” . Currently, about 29% of the municipal waste in the United States is made up of paper and paper products. This is more than any other waste product in America today . Because of this staggering statistic, it is clear that push towards greater paper recycling could help to significantly reduce the total MSW in America today.The benefits of recycling paper are numerous. First, recycling helps to conserve resources that are required to make paper. Currently, the manufacture of paper is the largest industrial use of water on a per pound of product basis . Paper manufacturing uses the third largest amount of fossil fuels worldwide . It requires almost 324 liters of water to produce just one kilogram of paper . These statistics and more show that paper production does, indeed, require a large amount of resources that could be better used elsewhere if recycling were more prevalent.
Efforts to increase recycling around the United States have been successful so far. In a 2007 survey, it was found that about 87% of all people in the United had access to some form of community paper recycling service . In addition, in 2010, almost 63% of paper used in the United States was recycled. Compared to other countries, though, the US is not a leader of paper recycling. The Netherlands recycles 77% of paper, Germany recycles 67%, Japan recycles 52%, and the US recycles 45%. Clearly, more can be done to increase this effort across the country.
Possibly more important than a recycling effort is an overall effort to reduce paper use outright. Whereas many have focused attention on a recycling effort, not much has been done to simply reduce paper use. This may be the key to really seeing a reduction in energy use in the paper manufacture industry. The idea of recycling has seemingly led people in a feeling of false security where one can use as much paper as desired as long as they recycle it afterwards. A focus on resource conservation may be more crucial to this issue than simply resource recycling.