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Paper Recycling: How to Save Energy and Protect Confidential Information

Posted  September 20, 2018  by  Lynn Brown

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Even though so much of our work and communication is done digitally these days, there is still a lot of paper being used as well.

The average office worker uses about 10,000 pieces of copy paper annually and the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) reports that most households throw away 13,000 pieces of paper in a year. All told, about 70 million tons of paper and paperboard are used annually in the United States, according to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

The good news is that recycling paper is now a common process in the workplace and home – and it is making quite an impact. The American Forest and Paper Association reports that the paper recovery rate in the United States was 65.8% in 2017. By 2020, the association is pushing to exceed 70% paper recovery for recycling.

Recycling helps reduce waste in landfills. In fact, Shred-it statistics show that 40% of the waste in landfills today is still paper. Recycling also protects natural resources like trees and water, and reduces pollution caused by paper waste and manufacturing processes.

There are several significant energy savings worth mentioning too.  These include:

Resources: According to the EPA, recycling one ton of office paper can save 17 trees, two[KK1]  barrels of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, and 7,000 gallons of water. This is a 64% energy savings, which is enough to heat an average home for six months! 

Recycling: According to www.recyclingbin.com, manufacturing recycled paper uses only 60% of the energy needed to make paper from new materials. In addition, every ton of paper recycled can save the energy equivalent of 165 gallons of gasoline.

New paper products: Making recycled paper into new paper products can save a lot of energy and water since the number of energy-intensive steps and processes that use water are greatly reduced.

It’s also important to think about the security of confidential information and this is one of the biggest challenges today in the workplace and at home. Protecting confidential information on paper from information thieves is critical and helps to avoid theft of information and data breaches. Rather than dispose of documents in unsecured, blue (recycling) bins, there needs to be a process in place that protects confidential data. 

How can an organization recycle paper in a secure and energy-saving way?

  • Partner with a professional shredding company that has a secure chain of custody.    
  • Replace blue bins with locked consoles so that employees can easily drop confidential documents into the consoles for secure destruction, and then ultimately recycling.
  • Implement a Shred-it-all Policy so that all documents that are no longer needed are included.
  • Make sure recycling is part of the document destruction process. For example, in the Shred-it process, shredded paper is baled and then transported to a recycling facility. There, pulp is made from the fibers of the shredded paper and prepared for mixing with fresh pulp to manufacture new paper products.

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