When I look at the recyclables in the bins at the Recycling Center, a great majority of it is cardboard and other paper products.
What happens to all that paper that is brought to the Recycling Center? If it is clean, dry, and free of a wax coating, almost all of it becomes paper products of one form or another. Each week, Fillmore County continues to send 15 to 18 tons of cardboard, boxboard, and newspaper to the Twin Cities, where it is then sent to different mills to be made into different forms of paper once again. Today’s paper is a bit different from the papyrus used by the Romans. Centuries ago, different forms of paper were made from grass, rags, old fishing nets, and reeds. Today, recycled paper products and wood are the two main sources for paper production.
Thirty-five percent of America’s solid waste is paper products. These are much too valuable to be buried in a landfill or burned in a heap of garbage. At this time, perhaps 25% of these paper products are recycled. Raising this rate to 50 or 60% would benefit the environment greatly, with less energy being used to recycle what we can rather than starting from scratch using our precious natural resources. Today, nearly 40% of a newspaper, novel, cereal box, junk mail, cardboard box, pizza box, magazine or phone book is made from recycled material.
Here is a quick review on the making of paper. At the mill, the paper and cardboard are shredded and water is added to make a pulp. The pulp is washed and cleaned and then run through beaters that turn it into slush. Color is added at this time, if necessary. The slush is then placed on a large screen and drained. Large rollers then press the mixture to squeeze out any excess water and give the paper its uniform thickness. The new paper is then wound onto large rolls 30 feet wide and weighing nearly 25 tons. A very large blade then cuts these rolls into slices of different widths.
There seems to be no limit to the number of times glass and metal can be recycled. Paper is not as fortunate. The fibers that paper contains must be a certain length to hold it together. Each time these fibers are run through the process, they get a little shorter until their final life is that of an egg carton. Most fibers can be recycled about seven times before they reach the egg carton stage.
By weight, more paper is recycled in the United States than all glass, plastic, and aluminum cans combined When you recycle your fibers, you have helped increase the amount of standing timber in our forests by ten million acres since 1990. Most of the people of Fillmore County are doing their part to use less trees. The birds, squirrels, skunks, rabbits, and deer thank you for your efforts.