Monday, December 15, 2008

Paper, Paper everwhere...not a scrap to note!

Greetings all,

What can I say? The headline is a lie. If anything, there was more paper and scraps to note down War & Peace...about a hundred million times. You see, I had an opportunity to visit two giant paper, stationary and playing card presses in central China. It is hard to describe the scale here, folks. To say "huge" would be to compare the pulp plant to a skyscraper...but it is bigger by far. More like a half-mile city block. To say "big" would be to compare the presses to a bus...but they were bigger too. More like a convoy. To say "lengthy" would be to compare the cutting, assembly and packaging lines to a walk in the park. But it took over two hours for each fast-paced tour.

And here is what I kept thinking through the whole thing: What a lot of waste! Take the legal pads being spun off at several thousand an hour. Imagine them going to all those stationary stores, and into people's briefcases and meetings. They get whipped out and a thought or two is scribbled on them, likely transferred to an email and...tragedy of tragedies...thrown away. I can't escape this image of a giant beast who gobbles up and later excretes giant loads of yellow...yellow...yellow...gunk.

As interesting was the "party" division that was part of the tour. They were spinning off napkins for July 4th. Beyond the irony of communist China supplying the mountain of Independence Day cups, napkins, hats, etc. was the delicious comment of my Chinese colleague, "I'll never use another paper napkin!" "Why?" I puzzled. "This is just so unsanitary!" I could see his operating room it ain't.

What was just as interesting was when I got back from my trip, it turns out my daughter was learning about the paper process too. For homework she cut up a bunch of paper and soaked it in water for three days, then took that cellulose soup to school. Everyone then turned their mushy mess into another sheet of rough paper. It got me may be easier to re-use that scrap than I thought and I'm going to give it a try. Stay tuned!

Anyway, perhaps noting the scale of the production will help you scale your consumption. For me, around my house and even in our office, we re-use paper a lot. We take envelopes and cut them for notes. We turn paper over and re-print on it for internal purposes, or at least cut it up for scratch paper. I hope that you are considering something similar! For beyond the "no buying" objectives...I try to use the "no waste" rule. After all, who wants to get that yellow stream all over them? (Oh, how I love puns...sorry to gross anyone out!)

1 comment:

Cleopatra's grandmother said...

This is so interesting. I wonder if the digital era has cut down on paper at all. Since we have started charging people 10 cents a page to print at the library, we no longer go through a ream of paper a day. We don't print programs flyers of a monthly newsletter. I read all my newspapers online, and magazines at the library or online, and I think a lot of other people do too. But I hope real paper books will continue to be published.