India needs shot in arm for recycling paper
AUGUST-2012 – Recycling paper, is essentially, turning waste paper into new paper. According to Tappi (the leading technical association for the worldwide pulp, paper and converting industry), the paper recycling process, involves mixing of wastepaper with water and chemicals to break it down. The broken residue is then chopped up and heated to convert it into strands of cellulose, called pulp or slurry. This pulp is then cleaned, “deinked”, bleached, and mixed with water and converted into new paper. Recycling paper has a big impact on saving wood that is used to generate the paper. For example, according to the environmental paper network, recycling a tonne of newsprint saves about a tonne of wood, while recycling a tonne of printing or copier paper, saves slightly more than two tonnes of wood. Also, it is believed that recycling paper saves energy. For example, the energy information administration claims a 40 per cent reduction in energy when paper is recycled, compared with paper made with unrecycled pulp, while the bureau of international recycling (BIR) claims a 64 per cent reduction. In addition, the US environmental protection agency (EPA) has found that recycling causes 35 per cent less water pollution and 74 per cent less air pollution than making new paper. Also, according to EPA, about 35 per cent of municipal solid waste (before recycling) by weight is paper and paper products that would not enter landfills if it is recycled. Although, the potential and benefits for recycling paper seem immense, very little paper is recycled in India. According to the Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA), in India, only about 20 per cent waste paper is being recycled every year. This low recycling rate is mainly on account of alternate use of paper in wrapping, packing, and the lack of source segregation that makes waste paper contaminated and unusable. Thus, India lacks collection, sorting and grading system of waste paper for proper utilisation. IPMA believes that this rate of paper recycling in India is very low, compared with other countries. Paper recycling rate in Germany is 73 per cent, in Sweden, it is 69 per cent, in Japan, it is 60 per cent, in western Europe, it is 56 per cent, in the US, it is 49 per cent, and in Italy, it is 45 per cent. In fact, the US postal service recycles more than a million tonnes of scrap paper and $160 million worth of recycled paper each year. It has even won the environmental mailer award. In a recent report, the Central Pulp & Paper Research Institute (CPPRI) has stated that by 2010, about half of the global amount of fibres used in papermaking will be recycled fibres. However, the report admits that recycled fibre sourcing in India is a challenge. The 20 per cent Indian recycling estimate, is alarming given that the projected demand for fresh paper in India will be likely around 21 million tonnes over the next few years, according to ITC and Indian Agro & Recycled Paper Mills Association (IARPMA). This amount of paper consumption is likely, because in India, per capita paper consumption has been increasing: To 9.18 kg in 2009-10 from 8.3 kg during 2008-09. Also, given the poor recycling rate in India, unsorted waste and dumps would likely fill nearby landfills. In this regard, paper recycling seems to offer a partial answer to this problem, because every tonne of paper recycled, saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space. Although, India has been behind in recycling paper, of late, IPMA has taken a number of recycling initiatives. For instance, last year, ITC’s paperboards and specialty papers division, launched a waste paper collection programme called “wealth out of waste (WOW)”, in select areas in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Coimbatore, and is now, expanding it include more areas in south India, including Chennai. WOW is a recycling initiative that works towards spreading awareness about recycling and encourages people to segregate and dispose waste responsibly. It is an internationally recognised initiative by the bureau of international of recycling. In the programme, WOW reaches out to schools, institutions and homes through its awareness building teams, about source segregation of waste. After a stipulated period of time, the WOW team goes back to collect the waste kept aside by schools/institutions/homes, and pays them for the recyclables collected. In Chennai, WOW has tied up with 30-40 IT companies including Infosys, IBM, and Wipro, which would sell their waste paper to ITC for recycling. It also plans to tie up with residential welfare associations (RWAs), NGOs and local bodies to expand the waste paper collection programme. According to IPMA, government intervention is necessary to encourage segregation at source and increase recycling to minimise landfill and related environmental hazards. Given that the paper recycling patterns are irregular in India at present, recycling paper has a tremendous potential to be exploited on a commercial scale. One can argue that one can develop a very respectable income collecting and selling paper to the recycling centres. It certainly does not take any education, specialised training or experience; it’s as simple as saving your old newspapers and turning them in to a central collection depot.