That’s a lot of paper
The Aspen Times uses enough paper in a year to cover Utah. We could cover Maine twice, or Manhattan Island 3,700 times.The newsprint used in our Gypsum printing plant is 18 percent post-consumer content. But the office paper that we use internally was a different story, until recently.Sometimes all it takes for change to happen is the knowledge that something could be done better. And better, from a climate-change standpoint, means recycled paper.In order to make paper that isn’t recycled, trees must be cut down, turned into pulp and then bleached to create what is called “virgin” paper. Recycling cuts out the timber-harvesting process, which puts out a good deal of carbon. Recycling emits carbon too, but it’s much less than either milling new paper or letting it decompose in a landfill.When we called Sandy’s Office Supply to find out how much office paper we use, we learned that we weren’t even using partially recycled office paper. We also learned that a 30 percent post-consumer paper is only $3 more per box (10 reams, or packets).
When Publisher Jenna Weatherred learned of the problem she immediately ordered the change to recycled paper (at a cost of roughly $150 a year). The Aspen Times prints 949 tons of newspapers each year (1,897,245 pounds of newsprint) and uses 540 reams of office paper per year (2,976 pounds). An average daily New York Times is 1 pound of paper.The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 40 percent of the national waste stream is paper.”There is definitely still a substantial part of the waste stream that is recyclable,” said Dylan Hoffman, outreach coordinator for the Pitkin County Landfill. According to his estimate, the landfill recycles 1,500 tons of newspaper annually and 200 tons of office paper. Hoffman said that the recycled newsprint represents about 5,000 cubic yards of “trash” that doesn’t go into the landfill. That’s equivalent to 1,666 average-size Dumpsters or 125 trailer Dumpsters full of paper. All three major ways of disposing of newsprint – recycling, burning and burying – release harmful greenhouse gases. But, from a climatic point of view, throwing paper in a landfill is the worst way to dispose of paper because decomposing paper releases methane, a greenhouse gas 24 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
There is little The Aspen Times can do to cut down on usage of newsprint. If we are successful, then our readership grows and we print more papers. Similarly, the more advertisements we sell, the more pages you’ll see in the paper. The best thing we can do to reduce our impact as a massive user of paper is to ask you, the reader, to recycle your newspaper.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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