Use and Reuse

For most of us, recycled paper means coarse handmade sheets marketed by Khadi Gram Udyog or fashionable stationery stores. What we don't know, and what consumer goods-manufacturers do not consider worth telling us, is that almost all the brightly-coloured paper board that is used for packaging items of daily use like breakfast cereals, soaps and toothpastes are made from recycled paper.

The potential use of wastepaper is evident from the fact that mills in South Korea and Taiwan are entirely dependent on wastepaper as a raw material. A study by Sorda Cell of Sweden shows that wastepaper will meet 50 per cent of the increased demand for raw materials by 2000. And it has already become an internationally-traded commodity. About 12-13 million tonnes or 14 per cent of the world's consumption of wastepaper is traded internationally, of which 50 per cent is provided by the us

In India, a majority of paper mills (63.4 per cent) use wastepaper as a raw material. They account for 30.1 per cent of the total paper manufactured in the country. Most of the wastepaper is imported from countries like the US, and imports have been continuously rising over the years.

India has a pathetically low rate of recovering paper. Only about 30 per cent of the used paper is collected, and that too could be an overestimation. Of the retrieved 30 per cent, 10 per cent is "preserved' as books and records. The rest is recycled for retail packaging, making match boxes, crackers, binding books and wrapping paper in shops. The paper is normally too distorted for recycling into good quality papers and can only be used in cardboard mills. Very little information is available regarding what happens to the rest of the paper used. A study conducted by Shristi, a Delhi-based ngo , revealed that ragpickers do not usually collect crumpled paper from garbage, since it brings them no profit. Thus, most of the paper is dumped in landfills .

In many parts of the world, the realisation that recycling paper is good business has been met with action and efforts are being made to get back as much paper as possible. Recovered paper accounted for one-third (86 million tonnes) of the total fibre input worldwide. Even wood-rich countries like the US, Sweden and Finland have evolved means by which recovery rates can be improved. Japan has one of the best paper recycling rates in the world. According to the Japan Paper Association, about half the amount of paper produced each year in the country is recycled, the highest among major paper producing countries.

This rise in demand for recycled paper in developed countries will put additional pressure on wastepaper-based mills in India, since they rely heavily on imported scrap.This calls for a more systematic method of domestic collection, if Indian mills are to survive in the future.