America’s paper usage accounts for 1/3 of the total paper used in the world. This comes out to be about 85 tons.
America by far has the greatest rate of paper consumption per capita in the world. Each person is estimated to use 749 pounds of paper each year, adding up to 187 billion pounds every year for the entire population.
The environmental impact of the paper industry has been harmful in two ways: 1. Paper mills are one of the worst polluters to air, water and land. The Worldwatch Institute issued a report stating that, “Each year millions of pounds of highly toxic chemicals such as toluene, methanol, chlorine dioxide, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde are released into the air and water from paper making plants around the world.” And, 2. Some old growth forests (which are impossible to regrow because of their maturity) are cut down each year to make paper. These forsets only make up about 9% of the industry’s supply for paper, but there are many alternatives to cutting down trees available for the paper industry. Recycling keeps 45% of American paper out of landfills each year, and wood subsitutes in paper production are becoming increasingly popular. Agricultural waste left over from harvesting (wheat, barley, etc.), hemp (though it now has to be imported because of the illegality of marijuana), and Kenaf, a wood-free fiber plant related to cotton, can all be made into paper without cutting down any trees, and agri-waste is used now as a wood substitute. The only reason that paper mills are not moving from paper to other materials is because the changes in machinery that would make it possible to produce hemp and Kenaf paper would cost tens of millions of dollars. But hey, one can always hope.
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