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Paper is all around us. It helps us communicate, create and illustrate. Our books, newspapers, magazines and posters are made from it. Paper is the number one material we throw away. For every 100 kg of rubbish we throw away, 39 kg of it is paper. Newspapers alone take up about 14% of landfill space.
Paper can be glossy or matt, thin or thick. Most paper products are made from trees although paper can also be made from cloth or grass.
How paper is made
After the trees have been harvested, they are taken to a paper factory. The bark and the roots are burned and used to produce energy. The rest of the tree is washed and then chopped into small chips for pulping. Pulping is the chemical process that separates the wood fibres from lignin and other wood parts. After pulping, paper is a light brown colour.
Recycled paper is made from waste paper mixed with fresh wood pulp. Almost all paper can be recycled today. Waste paper must be sorted as some types are harder to recycle than others, such as cardboard boxes compared to newspapers. Old newspapers are usually made into new newsprint (the paper used in newspapers), egg cartons or paperboard. Unlike most other recyclables, paper cannot be recycled over and over again, as the fibres eventually become too weak and short to be used again.
How to save paper
● Don't throw away magazines or newspapers. Use them to clean the windows.
● Keep paper that is printed on one side only. The blank side can be used to scribble messages, shopping lists, etc.
● Share magazines and newspapers with friends or borrow them from the library.
● Tear out pages from old magazines to line the shelves of a shoe cabinet, for example.
● Use old magazines to make confetti with a hole punch.
● Use paper from magazines to wrap things.
● Take any unwanted magazines to the nearest recycling centre. 1,000 kg of paper made from recycled fibres conserves about 27,000 litres of water, 18-34 trees, over 4,000 kW2 of electricity and 27 kg of air pollutants.