The role of paper in our lives
04 Nov 2022 /

The role of paper in our lives

If the climate crisis is as serious as scientists say, why isn’t it the first piece of news when you switch on the television, listen to the radio or read the newspapers?” If burning fuels threatens our existence, how can we carry on burning them? Why are there no restrictions? Why isn’t it illegal?” A young Greta Thunberg asked all these logical questions four years ago when, in her perplexity, she decided to launch the movement #FridaysForFuture to try to convince people that we cannot ignore climate change and just carry on as normal.

We cannot all be Greta, but we can incorporate healthy habits in our daily lives that are also good for the planet. Climate change is the result of the sum of many bad decisions deriving from our lifestyle which, if we are realistic, is totally unsustainable. Being aware does not mean provoking eco anxiety, it is simply a question of seeing things as they are. Although it is difficult.

Greta Thunberg Fridays For Future
Juventud cambio climático

One tonne, 18 trees

Let’s look close to home. For every tonne of paper and card that is recycled, 18 trees are saved from being felled. Paper and card are two of the most habitual waste products in the world’s rubbish bins. In fact, it is calculated that, in Spain, 40% of the rubbish we throw away is cellulose, which is the main component of paper and card.

Nowadays, to make paper and card, the paper industry increasingly uses shavings and sawdust from sawmills, as well as recycled paper and card. In other words, a tree does not necessarily need to be felled to achieve the raw material from which to manufacture paper. Even so, most of the raw material comes from trees.

The blue bin

80% of paper recycling derives from businesses and companies, including both firms that use these materials and those that produce them. The remaining 20% of waste corresponds to the efforts of citizens, via the recycling of paper and card in the blue bins available all around the country.

It is important to remember that we should only throw totally clean paper and card into the blue bin. For example, we cannot use it to dispose of a stained pizza box. That box would go, together with dirty kitchen roll or used paper napkins, in the organic waste bin.

Since some paper items do not enter the recycling cycle either because we keep them, such as books, or because they become deteriorated or destroyed with use, such as toilet paper, it is estimated that the real percentage of paper collection for recycling is currently around 85% of consumption, not 100%.

Recycling paper and card also has a positive impact by reducing the amount of rubbish we generate, since it considerably lessens the proportion of waste that ends up in incinerators or, even worse, littering the natural environment.

What is not thrown away does not pollute and therefore does not need to be recycled. This should be, at this stage of the century, a generalized mantra. It is the famous rule of the three Rs: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Post-oil paper

The report The cellulose era” includes a wide range of innovative products with the new trends of the paper and card industry, such as toilet paper that cleans the pipes, the cement sack that disappears, cellulose originating from milk or cacao, biocomposites made of hi-tech cellulose for automobiles or the cardboard packaging that cools cava, among many other examples of paper innovation “made in EU”. The cellulose era has begun: there are no limits for cellulose and paper in the new post-oil age. The bioeconomy is already a reality.

The choice of materials is, among others, one of the most relevant when it comes to reducing the negative impact of our work and working on sustainability in design.

Some innovative proposals

Papermilk is paper manufactured with milk fibres, by Gruppo Cordenons SpA, which includes milk fibres in the paper production process. The result is a special paper that can be used for all kinds of printing and packaging solutions and is a very attractive communications medium.

GreeNest, by the packaging firm Huhtamaki, is a very green egg box since it is manufactured from grass fibres. Holding eggs safely and, at the same time, contributing positively to the environment is an achievable challenge here. This innovative egg box, made from 50% grass fibres, leaves a smaller carbon footprint and consumes less water than other similar boxes, as well as being recyclable, biodegradable and compostable.

Valencian studios: sustainability is sexy

Packaging, something that is directly linked to design, plays an important role in the purchasing decisions of the consumer and incorporates increasingly sophisticated functions of communication and protection.

With innovative designs and connectivity solutions, paper and carboard packaging is the sustainable response to the new market demands. Packaging for electronic products with protective wings, anti-moisture packaging, cardboard pallets, the multibox for online shopping, the new solutions for bottles and cans and the disappearing cement sack are just a few examples.

Valencian design studios, such as Hoy es el día or Inma Bermúdez work on a daily basis with a commitment to sustainability as the only viable way of working.

At the Alicante studio Hoy es el día, they explain that it has been calculated that 80% of the environmental impact of a product is defined in the design stage. Therefore, “the choice of materials is, among others, one of the most relevant aspects when it comes to reducing the negative impact of our work and working on sustainability in design.”

They compile both materials and strategies, to choose how to use them and achieve a design that is as sustainable as possible, and these include paper and card, which are “considered healthy, since they originate from a raw material that is natural, renewable, biodegradable, recyclable and of low energy intensity. However, numerous factors are at play in their life cycle which it is worth taking into account in order to make the right choice.”

Other studios that work in this line are Apu’a, Monnou and EstudiHac, which have set out to raise awareness in their area of influence, to be part of the solution and make sustainability sexy.

The newspaper that comes up roses

In Japan, one of the countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions owing to the number of polluting factories based there and the overpopulation of some of its cities, they have taken things one step further.

The Mainichi Shimbun is the oldest newspaper in the country, founded in 1872, and it has a circulation of some six million copies per day. They recently produced a special edition, printed with plant-based ink and with thousands of seeds embedded in its recycled paper fibres, the purpose of which was to be planted after it had been read.

This initiative has positioned the Japanese newspaper as the first ecological newspaper in the world, since it not only uses recycled paper but each copy is converted into a plant that provides oxygen and helps decontaminate the environment.