As a society that has been taught to recycle, Britain’s inhabitants obediently sift through the glass, plastic and cardboard we throw away and place it in its rightful bin. We do this to save the world, of course. And the same can be said of paper and printing; we take heed of the warnings at the bottom of our emails which suggest our environment will suffer if we print anything on real paper, and keep everything electronic. We have stopped writing and started emailing and texting as a nation. Love letters are becoming non-existent, as is our handwriting. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but the Qwerty keyboard is quickly becoming the mightiest of all. And we do this – we sacrifice our Parker Fountain Pens and our Moleskine journals for the clicking of keyboards and tapping of touch screens – all to save our beautiful Earth from Global Warming. How much do we actually know about paper and printing?
Avoiding a science lecture, the basic reason for not printing and using recycled paper is to save a tree and to prevent the release of greenhouse gases when paper is buried in landfill. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) recently released a new file format (creatively named the .wwf file) along with the phrase “save as wwf, save a tree” for the documents available to download on the website. This format, which cannot be printed easily, accompanied the organisation’s claims that printing is responsible for valuable tree habitats such as rainforests being destroyed, this being the reason why we should never ever print anything. Naturally, a wall of objections has risen to meet the WWF’s accusations, and at the top are the Friends of Print and Paper organisation, known as FOPAP. They believe that printing should be encouraged, and they say if we listen to them we could end the Global Warming crisis in a century…
FOPAP argue that if we seal paper away at the bottom of landfill sites, it doesn’t decompose and release the greenhouse gases that are causing Global Warming. Their studies have shown that paper which has been underground in air-tight conditions for up to 50 years has barely changed form, the print actually trapping the carbon and other gases inside the material. They suggest that if the UK recognised the vast amounts of paper lurking at the bottom of these sites as a way of preventing the escape of greenhouse gases, it could offset these numbers against its carbon footprint, reducing it and encouraging more countries to do the same.
Landfill isn’t where FOPAP stop. They believe that we should be chopping down trees, and lots of them. And, of course, replanting the ones that are felled. This, they say, is because as a tree grows older it is much like a human; it eats less, breathes less and has less of an impact on the environment; a mature tree will no longer take enough carbon dioxide from the air to help our fight against Global Warming. A young sapling, however, will consume much more carbon dioxide than its older generations just as a small child eats, breathes and runs around much more than an adult. FOPAP suggest that this continuous replacement of the old with the new helps us to reduce the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, leading us on a path closer to carbon neutrality.
Recycling paper has been effectively promoted by Britain, but if FOPAP win people over to their way of thinking, it could result in a backlash of criticism about other materials such as plastic and glass. The controversial statements made by FOPAP are the first of their kind and John Roche, the founder of the organisation, says: “There will be political challenges to overcome. There always is. There will be corporate challenges to overcome. This goes without saying. There will be scientific challenges to overcome. We have the talent to fight this.” He believes FOPAP are right, and wants others to join his fight against paper recycling…
I am among those told that recycling is an absolute. What do you think?
Visit www.fopap.org to explore this controversial alternative to recycling.
I would love to know what you think about this take – please comment below if you have anything to add to the debate.