Bundled up with no place to go
As regular readers of this blog (and visitors to this website) will know, Lantern is big into recycled paper. However, Lantern also knows that recycled paper has its limitations. Indeed, as a member of the Association of American Publishers Paper Issues Working Group, I've come to have a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of how paper and its uses fit into the larger cycle of wood products and energy use in a global context.
, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that specializes in working with businesses to understand environmentally preferable wood and paper products, has produced a four-page sheet of FAQs (PDF)
that gives a pretty good overview of the current situation regarding recycled paper, and I commend it to your attention.
One feature of the paper industry that you may now know about is that fully a third of American collected paper is shipped to China, where it is then turned into (among other things) cardboard containers for Chinese products to be shipped back to America. Because Americans have cut back on their buying spree due to the recession, fewer Chinese products are being shipped to America; which means lower demand for cardboard boxes, which means less need for recycled paper. However, municipalities continue to collect the stuff and so it piles up in ports and warehouses, its value decreasing as supply outstrips demand.
The moral of the story? Well, first of all, we should acknowledge that globalization has a kind of nutty logic that makes it hard to know where to intervene in the cycle so that mass consumption is not responsible for driving the recycling industry. However, we might be better served asking ourselves how we can produce less waste in the first place and thinking about whether everything we produce needs to make its way onto paper.