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Chapter 1

The Upstream Benefits: Reducing Pollution and the Use of Virgin Resources

Manufacturing and Mining's Toxic Impacts

As the chapters that follow confirm, using recycled materials helps avoid the air and water pollution typically caused by manufacturing plants that rely solely on unprocessed, virgin raw materials. Because using recycled materials reduces the need to extract, process, refine, and transport timber, crude petroleum, ores, etc., into virgin-based paper, plastics, glass, and metals, recycling lessens the toxic air emissions, effluents, and solid wastes that these manufacturing processes create. It is virtually beyond dispute that manufacturing products from recyclables instead of from virgin raw materials -- making, for instance, paper out of old newspapers instead of virgin timber -- causes less pollution and imposes fewer burdens on the earth's natural habitat and biodiversity.

Antienvironmental theorists dismiss these benefits. The Cato Institute, a conservative research and advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., claims that state and local ordinances that promote recycling "neither conserve scarce resources nor help to protect the environment."[13] According to the Reason Foundation, "Recycling itself can cause environmental harm...As a result, the environmental costs of recycling may exceed any possible environmental benefits."[14] Most recently, the benefits recycling provides in avoiding pollution caused at manufacturing plants were dismissed by John Tierney in "Recycling Is Garbage" in the New York Times Magazine as follows:

[T]here are much more direct -- and cheaper -- ways to reduce pollution. Recycling is a waste of...natural resources...[and] a messy way to try to help the environment.[15]

The Facts In virtually all cases, recycling helps reduce or eliminate the pollution typically associated with the production and disposal of consumer products. As the following text makes clear, antirecycling interests who argue otherwise are either out of touch with or conveniently ignoring well known and widely documented environmental facts.

Paper Made from Timber

Think bundling your newspapers is "messy"? Not when compared with the process of making paper from virgin timber. While modern paper recycling mills can be designed to operate without producing any hazardous air or water pollution and virtually no hazardous wastes,[16] the virgin pulp and paper industry is one of the world's largest generators of toxic air pollutants, surface water pollution, sludge, and solid wastes. A recent assessment of the virgin timber-based papermaking industry concluded that reducing hazardous discharges at paper mills worldwide to safe levels would cost $27 billion.[17] Indeed, the timber industry has in all likelihood wiped out more habitat and more species per unit of production than has any other industry. Most Americans associate virgin paper mills with both the destruction of resident-species habitat and the contamination of streams and rivers with chlorinated dioxins and other pollutants. But the fact is these mills are also major sources of a wide variety of hazardous air and water pollutants, odors, solid waste, contaminated sludge, and water discoloring agents. Besides their well known, often unbearable emissions of sulfur compounds (causing an odor resembling rotten eggs), pulp and paper mills are classified under U.S. federal law as generators of "significant quantities of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) chlorinated and non-chlorinated. Some of these pollutants are considered to be carcinogenic, and all can cause toxic health effects following exposure. Most of the organic HAPs emitted from this industry also are classified as volatile organic compounds which participate in photochemical reactions in the atmosphere to produce ozone, a contributor to photochemical smog."[18]

Moreover, the virgin "pulp and paper industry is the largest industrial process water user in the United States. Approximately 1,551 billion gallons of wastewater are generated annually by pulp, paper, and paperboard manufacturers."[19] Water pollutants contained in these billions of gallons discharged into streams, rivers, and lakes by virgin paper manufacturers include a wide range of hazardous and conventional pollutants as well as volatile organic compounds, including chlorinated dioxins and furans, chloroform, absorbable organic halides [AOX], methylene chloride, trichlorophenols, and pentachlorophenols.[20]

Processing rigid stands of timber into flexible, printable, smooth, glossy (or absorbent) paper requires an intensive chemical and mechanical effort after a tree is harvested. Once roads have been cut into the forest to get to the timber, it is transported to the mill, stockpiled, debarked, chipped, "cooked" in vats of chemicals, and turned into pulp and bleached mechanically and chemically. Then the pulp must be turned into paper or dried and shipped off to another mill. While paper can be recycled even at very large mills using fewer than a dozen nonhazardous chemicals and bleaching solutions that contain, for example, 99.5 percent water and 0.5 percent hydrogen peroxide (a concentration more diluted than the peroxide in your medicine cabinet),[21] most virgin pulp and paper is made using literally hundreds of highly corrosive and hazardous chemicals, including chlorine. As the EPA has documented, this presents enormous problems in reducing pollution from virgin paper mills because "elimination of dioxin, furan, chlorinated phenolics, and other chlorinated organics [can]...not be achieved unless all forms of chlorine-based bleaching are eliminated."[22] This is not expected to happen in the United States for quite some time. In addition, not all of the toxic pollutants discharged in the wastewater produced by virgin pulp and paper mills are currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, including certain congeners of dioxin and furans and a range of chlorinated phenols.[23]


In stark contrast to the manufacture of a ceramic mug, which is environmentally benign, oil refineries and plastics production facilities that process crude petroleum into plastic cups and other consumer goods produce some of the most substantial public health threats -- including lethal gases like phosgene -- posed by any manufacturing process. In 1994 alone the 1,834 plastics production facilities operating in the United States emitted more than 111 million pounds of toxic air emissions, 507 million pounds of production-related wastes, tens of thousands of pounds of discharges to surface waters, and hundreds of thousands of pounds of other pollutants releases.[24] Moreover, the plastics industry is second only to the chemicals industry in generating toxic releases that damage the ozone layer, emitting more than 12 million pounds of ozone depleting chemicals in 1994.[25] (See Appendix B for a list of the toxic releases known to be produced by plastics production facilities.) Production of low-density polyethylene (used to make packaging and soda bottles) from virgin resources generates sixty-two to ninety-two pounds of organic pollutants per ton of product manufactured. In 1995 this amounted to approximately 500 million pounds of pollutants that needed to be burned, recycled, or discharged.[26] Similar impacts are associated with the production of polystyrene (throwaway cups and foam packaging) and polypropylene (packaging).[27] Finally, plastics production facilities are dangerous to the people who work in them. Between 1983 and 1993 there were forty-six major explosions and fires at oil refineries and chemical plants that produce plastics; these explosions injured 446 workers and killed 89.[28] Virtually all of these impacts are reduced or avoided entirely when recycled plastics are substituted for crude oil and gas in the manufacture of consumer packaging and products. For example, recycling plastic containers into resin-pellets or new products involves mostly mechanical processes like shredding and heating and uses very few process chemicals, none of which are hazardous.[29]

The antirecycling chorus says, "Recycling is a messy way to try to help the environment." Remember the Exxon Valdez? That was rather messy: more than 300,000 birds were killed outright by the spill, as were 3,500 to 5,500 sea otters; the year after the spill there was 50 percent pink salmon-egg mortality in oiled streams, compared with an 18 percent normal mortality in nonoiled streams. In general, highly productive and biologically rich coastal habitats were severely contaminated. In fact, "thousands of oil spills are reported every year, spilling millions of gallons of oil."[30] Much of the oil contained in the Exxon Valdez (and the oil carried by many other tankers that spill each year), was destined for plastics production facilities.


"Recycling Is Garbage" never specifies exactly why recycling is "a messy way to try to help the environment." Certainly no discussion about making an industrial-strength mess is complete without a reference to minerals and metals mining. Metals recycling -- of steel cans, aluminum, iron, etc. -- is one of American industry's success stories, helping to cut costly imports and reducing the need for virgin ore mining. It does seem hard to believe that recycling can be nearly as messy as mining virgin resources. Unlike the mining of virgin ores, reclaiming "urban ores," the metals found in the U.S. municipal waste stream, does not involve cutting open vast tracks of land, constructing huge mechanical land-movers to churn up the earth, contaminating the air, nearby rivers, lakes, and streams. Quite the contrary, recycling works to avoid some of the disastrous yet typical mining impacts described by the Mineral Policy Center (MPC), a bipartisan research group. The MPC estimates that more than 550,000 Hardrock Abandoned Mine Reclamation (HAMR) sites exist nationwide.[31] Abandoned mines, visual eyesores that leach pollutants, are found in every state of the Union. (See Appendix C for but a handful of the MPC's case studies documenting abandoned mines' costly and ugly legacy.).

To name but a few of the sites where mines have created serious problems:

  • Alaska: A long-defunct antimony mine is located in Denali National Park, home of Mount McKinley. The tailings pile and tunnels from this mine have begun to contaminate nearby scenic Slate Creek.

  • Arkansas: Bauxite pits scattered throughout the state pose not only environmental but also safety and environmental threats. Between 1986 and 1988 six people drowned in water-filled pits, known locally as "blue holes." Miles of streams have also lost all life because of bauxite contamination, including the once-thriving Blue Branch Creek.

  • Idaho: The Cinnabar mercury mine, in central Idaho, has been discharging mercury into a nearby river. Local children wandering onto the site are exposed to mercury and other hazardous substances.

Recycling metals and minerals -- tin cans (tin, iron), batteries (cadmium, zinc, mercury, lead, manganese), and aluminum (bauxite) -- as well as motor oil, paper, and plastics, as local ordinances encourage millions of Americans to do, supplements the supply of raw materials and thus reduces the need for mining, timber harvests, and petroleum refining.


The most controversial charge leveled by the antirecycling crowd is that recycling really does not benefit the environment; that, to the contrary, it produces its own significant pollution. For example, the Cato Institute has claimed that "de-inking 100 tons of old newspaper for subsequent reuse generates 40 tons of toxic waste."[32] According to the Reason Foundation, "The environmental costs of recycling may exceed any possible environmental benefits."[33] Here's how John Tierney put it in the Times Magazine:

[R]ecycling operations create pollution in areas where more people are affected: fumes and noise from collection trucks, solid waste and sludge from the mills that remove ink and turn the paper into pulp. Recycling newsprint actually creates more water pollution than making new paper from virgin sources...For each ton of newsprint that's produced, an extra 5,000 gallons of waste water are discharged.[34]

The Facts Less water pollution is produced per ton by paper recycling mills than by virgin paper mills. The recycled sector of the global paper industry, being more recently developed, is in fact the industry's most modern, efficient, and least polluting sector. The charge made by the Cato Institute that newsprint recycling mills produce forty tons of "toxic" waste for every hundred tons of paper recycled is, simply, absurd. Far from producing more hazardous pollution than virgin mills, modern paper recycling mills produce virtually no hazardous air or water pollution or hazardous wastes.[35] Even the most cursory review of engineering designs for newsprint recycling mills reveals that the product yield per ton of recovered paper used by the mill is in the range of 80 to 85 percent -- in other words, only about fifteen to twenty tons end up as waste per hundred tons of manufactured paper. None of this waste is "toxic." For virgin mills, the ratio is nearly the opposite: 75 percent of the harvested tree does not wind up as paper product. Where would the "toxic" residues allegedly produced by paper recycling mills come from? Less than one percent of the waste from a recycled paper mill is from ink, which is today more properly described as benign vegetable dye or carbon coated with plastic polymers; the remaining waste is water (90 percent) and short paper fibers (about 10 percent).[36] No recycled paper mill could operate successfully, financially or otherwise, with a 60 percent product yield, as the Cato Institute has claimed, especially if the by-product generated was "toxic waste," which requires special, extremely costly handling, treatment, and disposal according to U.S. federal hazardous waste laws.

Paper Made from Recyclables

Contrary to the claim that the recycling of newspaper produces an extra "5,000 gallons of wastewater" per ton of newsprint manufactured, new paper mills that recycle 100 percent newsprint do not even consume or discharge a total of 5,000 gallons of water per ton of manufactured product. By contrast, the virgin "pulp and paper industry is the largest industrial process water user in the United States."[37] Virgin newsprint mills, at best, use about the same amount of water as recycled newsprint mills, but in fact most virgin newsprint mills use more water per ton of manufactured product, sometimes twice as much. For example: A 100 percent recycled newsprint mill in Aylesford, England, uses and discharges less than 4,000 gallons of water per ton of manufactured product.[38] A 100 percent recycled newsprint mill under development in New York City's South Bronx will consume about 3,800 gallons of water per ton of manufactured product, and more than 80 percent of that water will come from a sewage treatment plant as recovered and cleaned effluent.[39] Another mill under construction on Staten Island in New York City, which will recycle newspapers and other types of wastepaper, will also use less than 4,000 gallons of water for every ton of manufactured product.[40] By contrast, virgin newsprint mills that are ten years old or older use approximately 10,000 gallons of water per ton of manufactured newsprint, while the few modern mills that have been built in the past eight to ten years use 4,000 to 5,000 gallons of water per ton of manufactured newsprint.[41] And most newsprint purchased in the United States is produced at older Canadian mills. Overall, the recycled paper industry is proving to be the least polluting and the most modern, efficient sector in the paper manufacturing industry.

How did the author of "Recycling Is Garbage" come up with the claim that more water pollution is caused by recycling newsprint? He has indicated[42] that he took the data on water pollution from a chart found in a study on recycled paper produced by the Paper Task Force, which was comprised of the Environmental Defense Fund, Time Inc., Johnson & Johnson, and other paper purchasers.[43] But the chart from which "Recycling Is Garbage" excerpted data was in a report that concluded that more recycled paper should be purchased. According to the report's conclusion: "This analysis shows clear and substantial environmental advantages from recycling all of the grades of paper we examined."[44] The bar chart that "Recycling Is Garbage" used for water-pollution data consists of fourteen graphical comparisons regarding energy usage, atmospheric emissions, solid wastes, and waterborne wastes. Although eleven of the fourteen comparisons[45] show recycled newsprint production having lower environmental impacts than comparable virgin production, "Recycling Is Garbage" leads readers to believe just the opposite. Checking with a paper company that actually operates a newsprint manufacturing facility would have been helpful (as NRDC did in preparing this document), especially given the fact that the Paper Task Force deliberately avoided including manufacturers of newsprint or any other paper grade in the report "Recycling Is Garbage" refers to.

Transporting Recyclables

It is also wrong to argue that pollution from recycling vehicles in urban areas is greater than pollution from trucks and infrastructure dedicated to garbage collection and disposal. At worst, recycling trucks and infrastructure may produce the same amount of pollution. But, as explained below, it is more likely that diverting waste to recycling processing facilities tends to cause less pollution than garbage collection does.

Any added pollution that might be generated by a recycling program would result from additional trucks dedicated to collection. However, because in most cities "the fleet of trucks to collect recyclables is substantially smaller and less costly than the [typical] waste [collection] fleet,"[46] the types of vehicles used to collect recyclables typically generate less pollution than standard waste collection vehicles. Moreover, collecting recyclables has been shown to be a faster operation than collecting garbage. "It takes less time at the curb to pick up a load of recyclables, which is typically under 10-15 pounds, than solid waste, which can be as much as 50 pounds or more."[47] This means a truck collecting recyclables, on average, idles for a shorter time than does a garbage truck, thus emitting less pollutants. Finally, by diverting waste into smaller, less polluting recycling vehicles, real-world experience confirms that there can be a reduction in the number of larger trucks and, indeed, of entire truck routes dedicated to garbage collection. As the recycling managers in Madison, Wisconsin have found,

recycling makes it possible to reduce the number of packers needed to collect solid waste. When 20 percent to 30 percent of the weight (and even more of the volume) is diverted from the refuse trucks to the recycling collection trucks, fewer compactors [for waste] will be necessary...[Moreover, with] less material going into the refuse trucks [per route], those vehicles can usually stay on their routes all day without having to make the typical mid-day trip off-route to unload [and] the time at each stop is reduced because there is less to collect...[T]hat reduces the number of trips off-route to unload from two to one each day [and] reduces the number of routes [needed entirely].[48]

The higher the recycling rate, the fewer trucks needed for garbage collection. Thus, the strategy to reduce any additional pollution that duplicate trucks might cause is to increase recycling. In that way trucks dedicated to garbage collection can be retired.

Moreover, because landfills are usually located far from the concentrated population centers that generate municipal wastes, transporting garbage to landfills typically requires more vehicle miles to be traveled than does the deposit of recyclables at processing plants, which are usually numerous and more frequently located within city limits. In New York City, more than two dozen recycling processing plants conveniently located in every borough help reduce the vehicle miles traveled to deposit recyclables. By contrast, the non-recyclable portion of the city's waste is deposited at any one of only eight marine transfer stations by the city's fleet of 2,500 collection vehicles, or directly at the logistically remote Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island.[49] Were New York City to adopt a policy of long-hauling waste for export, as dozens of other cities do, even more vehicle miles would be traveled, increasing mobile-source pollution.

Saving Trees

One of the very first environmental lessons most children learn is that recycling paper saves trees. That critical fact has been a launching pad for turning millions of families into environmentally concerned citizens. Antienvironmental interests have attempted to remove that attractive motivating image from the recycling lexicon. In its attempt to do so, the Reason Foundation has claimed "most of the trees used to make paper are not from virgin forests, but trees planted explicitly for manufacturing paper."[50] According to John Tierney's antirecycling article in the Times Magazine:

Yes, a lot of trees have been cut down to make today's newspaper. But even more trees will probably be planted in their place. America's timber supply has been increasing for decades...Paper is an agricultural product, made from trees grown specifically for paper production. Acting to conserve trees by recycling paper is like acting to conserve cornstalks by cutting back on corn consumption.[51]

The Facts It is specious to say that "virgin forests" are not used to make paper since virtually all the virgin forests in the United States have already been cut down. As the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has confirmed, throughout the United States, "95 per cent of the originally forested [virgin] area has been cleared and logged."[52] Moreover, the claim that "most of the trees used to make paper are not from virgin forests, but trees planted explicitly for manufacturing paper" is inaccurate. In fact, only a small percentage -- less than 20 percent -- of paper manufactured in the United States comes from tree plantations.[53] Yes, a lot of trees are cut down to make newspaper, and the types of trees used to manufacture newspaper are not being replaced at the rate at which they are harvested. A bevy of recently issued timber industry analyses confirm that "[u]nfavorable growth/drain ratios clearly suggest that we are depleting our 'forest capital.'"[54] Virtually all professional analysts of wood fiber supply in the United States report enormous pressure on commercially available timber.

A closer regional- and species-specific look at forestry in the United States reveals the picture is far more complicated, and less rosy, than John Tierney or the Reason Foundation suggests. By grouping all the trees in the United States together as "America's timber supply," the antirecyclers attempt to disguise the fact that substantial "reserves" are off-limits to commercial harvesting and that the timber used in the production of paper is not harvested uniformly. Instead, certain species, and hence certain forests, are more severely affected. For example, while the southern United States contains less than one-third (31 percent) of the nation's timber inventories, it is harvesting more than half (54 percent) of the nation's total timber volumes. This imbalance is even more striking when one consideres that 15 percent of the total timber area in the South is comprised of wetlands (environmentally sensitive and regulated), and 25 percent of the total timber inventories in the South are located in urban counties defined as Metropolitan Statistical Areas. These areas will be harvested but never replanted; while "short term harvest in these areas is likely, long-term timber management is not."[55] As for tree plantations, these account for less than about 50 percent of softwood (not all of which is used for papermaking) grown in the South, the only area in the United States that relies on plantations to any appreciable degree.[56]

The 1996 OECD analysis of forestry practices in the United States during the past hundred years reports that:

the forested area has been reduced by one-third, while the area of natural and semi-natural forests has been reduced even more: some estimates indicate that 95 per cent of the originally forested [virgin] area has been cleared and logged. Much forest, particularly in the eastern United States, is the product of reversion of [deforested] farmland back to woodland.[57]

Total economic supply of timber available for harvesting (that is, commercially accessible timber) is considerably less than total timber inventory. More than 10 percent of the land on which America's timber inventory grows consists of protected acreage representing important natural habitat and ecosystems.[58] As a consequence:

The "real" [commercially available] supply [of timber in the United States] is far less than inventory amounts...In addition, a sizable portion of the hardwood inventory is growing in the streamside reserves required to preserve wetlands areas...Most authorities agree that as much as forty percent of the hardwood inventory is not available for industry use.[59]

Contrary to the claims of the Reason Foundation, most paper (more than 80 percent) is not made from timber harvested at tree farms,[60] which serve the same function as an industrial assembly line, but from timber that supports valuable biologically diverse forest habitat. Harvesting these trees can mean the loss of an entire ecosystem. The OECD notes that in the United States the "evidence concerning habitats and species shows that diversity has been on the decline for many years."[61] Although data are difficult to obtain, the world's timber industry has probably played the most substantial role of any industry in harming the planet's biodiversity. According to Harvard professor E.O. Wilson:

Despite the seemingly fathomless extent of creation, humankind has been chipping away at its diversity, and Earth is destined to become an impoverished planet within a century if present trends continue. Mass extinctions are being reported with increasing frequency in every part of the world. The main cause is the destruction of natural habitats, especially tropical forests...[T]he great majority of extinctions are never observed. Vast numbers of species are apparently vanishing before they can be discovered and named.[62]

The question of whether or not more trees are planted than harvested to make paper must be looked at in terms of the specific regions being harvested. It must focus on the commercially recoverable supply of the specific types of timber used in the manufacture of paper and assess whether these are being replaced at a rate equal to their harvesting. Echoing the Reason Foundation, "Recycling Is Garbage" made its erroneous claim about the availability of timber replacement based solely on the total inventory of hardwood forests in the United States. Flat leaf-bearing trees are generally referred to as hardwoods. But newsprint is manufactured primarily from softwood trees, a category generally applied to needle-bearing trees. Softwood is the principal timber type used to manufacture newsprint, and softwood harvesting exceeds growth. According to a research paper on this subject prepared by professors in the Department of Forestry at North Carolina State University and presented at the International Woodfiber Conference in May 1996:

Annual removals of softwood timber exceeded annual growth in most of the large softwood producing states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas, and in most major forest survey units...These data indicate that the South is experiencing increasing softwood timber scarcity...[Despite] many positive prospects for increased investments, it will be difficult or impossible for the South to supplant all the softwood harvest reductions that have occurred on western public lands. The balance of harvest reductions will be made up partly by hardwoods, partly by recycled products, partly by imports, and partly by non-wood substitutes...We believe that there will be continued long-term pressures on timber supply...Our population and industry demand are increasing faster than our timber inventories.[63]

Another industry analysis also supports the position that softwood is not being replaced as fast as it is being harvested:

There is clear evidence that for the next fifteen to twenty years southern forests cannot provide the softwood volumes required to meet current mill requirements. The trees we will need are not in the ground and growing...Clearly, softwood planting rates have not kept pace with accelerated harvest levels...[F]rom Texas and Louisiana eastward through Georgia and South Carolina there is extreme competition for softwood timber...Removals are often twice the amount that is growing.

Without recycled fiber, softwood supplies would no doubt be tighter than they are now...Some suggest that the current softwood deficit is not a serious problem; that ingrowth from immature plantations will soon turn the tide...[T]aking these young plantations into account, we cannot share this optimism...By the year 2010, recycle [sic] will represent 35 to 40 percent of the total fiber mix.

While it is true that for "both hardwood growing stock and sawtimber, annual growth exceeded annual removals in almost all [U.S.] survey units, usually by a substantial margin,"[65] the fact is that "pulpwood markets have historically favored utilization of softwoods."[66] Indeed, 80 percent of all hardwood harvests are not used for papermaking.[67] The vast majority of hardwood harvested for lumber is "used to meet demands for new pallets and shipping containers. The [shipping] pallet industry...consumes about the same volume of domestic hardwood lumber as all other U.S. industries combined."[68] Moreover, even though hardwood is sometimes being "replaced," the biologically diverse hardwood forests that get harvested are not replenished with biologically diverse hardwood forests. In many regions no replanting takes place at all. In other regions clear-cut hardwood forests have been replaced with ecologically sterile monoculture tree plantations.

Because of the strain on domestic supplies, certain U.S. paper companies are already importing wood fiber from South and Central America. But Latin America, like Asia and Africa, is being rapidly deforested without corresponding replacement growth.[69] On a global scale our planet is being deforested, pine tree plantations in the southeastern United States notwithstanding:

Georgia-Pacific has been importing radiata chips from Chile for their mill in Bellingham, Washington, and Champion International plans to grow eucalyptus in northern Brazil for their mills in the U.S. South. Others include...Stone Container who [sic] will soon begin importing gamelina chips from Costa Rica.[70]

However, this import strategy is itself clouded by the growth in pulping capacity coming on-line in Latin America and which will consume most of the region's wood fiber surplus.[71]

It is odd that the antirecycling contingent would diminish the importance of recycled fiber to the paper industry by pretending recycling does not replace the need to harvest timber. Recycling programs provide an important source of fiber for papermaking, and paper recycling is economically replacing virgin timber use. According to Smith Barney, the Wall Street investment firm:

Most mills are converting or adding capacity to use secondary [recycled] fiber, at the expense of de-emphasizing the production of paper and paperboard from virgin wood pulp...[Because of the increasing use of recycled fiber] capacity of all grades of market pulp (virgin) is expected to fall by 70,000 short tons between 1994 and 1997, from 10.24 million short tons to 10.17 million. This is in sharp contrast to planned recycled paper mill capacity increases, which indicate a tripling in total recovered paper capacity in the same time frame.[72]

Without the availability of recycled fiber, the situation would be much worse for global timber demand. A world fiber balance industry analysis performed by Jaakko Poyry Consulting confirms this:

By 2010, about 20 percent more wood will be harvested to meet global demand for all forest products. If recycled fiber were not available, timber harvests would have to increase 80 percent over current levels...The nation's forests may have three times more wood today than in 1920, but Americans consume fifteen times more paper and paperboard than in 1920.[73]

Recycled fiber availability will itself have to increase by 50 percent in order to meet projected demand by 2010 for papermaking fiber.[74] With Japan, Taiwan, China, and a number of European nations already surpassing the 50 percent paper recovery level,[75] much of this fiber will have to come from higher wastepaper recovery in the United States.

The Energy Bonus
Recycling is the most energy conserving of all waste management strategies. Numerous industry and government studies have repeatedly documented that the collection and use of secondary materials results in large energy savings over traditional production and disposal methods. Net energy savings may vary from product to product and region to region, as well as from production facility to facility, but there is no doubt that energy use reductions are realized across the board by recycling. There is not much debate about this, and even antirecycling interests generally concede the point. According to John Tierney, "recycling does at least save energy -- the extra fuel burned while picking up recyclables is more than offset by the energy savings from manufacturing less virgin paper, glass and metal."[76] The Wall Street Journal concurs: "To be sure, reuse of old paper, metals, glass and even some plastics makes great sense. It almost always lowers raw-materials costs in manufacturing, usually reduces energy consumption and in some cases cuts air and water pollution."[77]

Many studies have calculated average energy requirements from manufacturing processes using virgin resources and compared these with the energy demand of production facilities that use secondary materials. These studies are virtually unanimous in confirming that all product categories using recycled materials show energy saving benefits. For example, producing linerboard paper (used in cereal and shoe boxes) from recycled fiber has been found to require 20 percent less energy than making a similar product from virgin fiber. Recycling newsprint results in an almost 40 percent reduction in total energy demand compared with virgin fiber use. Steel produced from secondary material uses about 60 percent less energy, and recycled aluminum provides a whopping 94 percent reduction in energy use compared with making the product from virgin ore. Recycling three different grades of plastic shows a net energy reduction in the range of 70 to 80 percent, compared with manufacturing similar products from virgin oil.[78]

Since energy use causes a large part of the total environmental impact engendered by virgin material based-production, the lower energy use of production facilities employing recycled materials suggests that they emit fewer pollutants, including greenhouse gases. In the case of virgin glass production, for example, the pollution from energy production causes 97 percent of the total environmental effects. Since glass produced from secondary material uses about 40 percent less energy, there is a corresponding reduction in pollution from the glass recycling process compared with glass manufacturing processes that use only virgin materials.[79]

Another recent analysis reviewed comparisons of the lifecycle environmental impacts of recycling, landfilling, and incineration and confirmed that recycling saves significant energy when compared to virgin resource-based systems of production and disposal. Evaluating a number of studies that compared the energy use and environmental releases associated with recycled and virgin material acquisition, production, and disposal systems, the report concluded:

Despite numerous differences in methodology, assumptions and data sources used by the authors of these studies, all of them support the following conclusions: Systems based on...recycling offer substantial system-wide or life-cycle environmental advantages over systems based on virgin production...across all four [environmental] parameters examined [that is, solid waste output, energy use, releases to air, and water].[80]

While it is obvious that landfilling wastes never saves energy, less known is that recycling also saves energy relative to the incineration of wastes for energy recovery. For example, while recycling a ton of plastics saves the equivalent of about 10.2 to 11 barrels of oil (depending on the grade of plastic being recycled), incinerating a ton of plastics for energy recovery saves the equivalent of only about 6.8 to 7.3 barrels. Recycling a ton of paper saves the equivalent of 2.3 to 4 barrels of oil, while incinerating a ton of paper saves the equivalent of 2.2 barrels (with no distinction among paper grades). Most striking is the comparison of recycling glass and metals versus the incineration of these materials which, unfortunately, routinely wind up in high volumes at combustors nationwide. While recycling a ton of aluminum and steel saves the equivalent of 37 and 2.7 barrels of oil respectively, these materials actually absorb heat and reduce the amount of energy produced by a combustor. The same is true for glass which, if reused, can save the equivalent of almost 10 barrels of oil, but also reduces the energy output from a combustor. (See Table 1) Moreover, while materials sent to a combustor release energy only once, recycling can provide energy savings through several production cycles.


13. Cato Institute report at p. 1.

14. A Consumer's Guide to Environmental Myths and Realities, Lynn Scarlett, (Dallas, Texas: Reason Foundation and National Center for Policy Analysis,) Sept. 1991, NCPA Policy Report No. 165, at p. 1. (Hereafter referred to as Environmental Myths.)

15. Tierney, at pp. 24 and 44.

16. See, for example, Bronx Community Paper Company in the Harlem River Yard, Final Environmental Impact Statement, April 25, 1996, throughout; and Bronx Community Paper Company: Feasibility Study for the High-Grade Deinking Facility, New York, New York, (Birmingham, Alabama: Rust Engineering Company, September 4, 1994), throughout.

17. "Towards a Sustainable Paper Cycle," prepared by the International Institute for Environment and Development, (London, 1996), cited in Daily Environment Report, August 5, 1996.

18. National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Source Category: Pulp and Paper Production; March 8, 1996, 40 CFR Part 63, Federal Register Vol. 61, No. 47, at pp. 9383 and passim. (Hereafter referred to as 40 CFR Part 63.)

19. Effluent Limitations and Guidelines, Pretreatment Standards, and New Source Performance Standards: Pulp, Paper and Paperboard Category; National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Source Category; Pulp and Paper Production; Proposed Rule, Dec. 17, 1993, 40 CFR Parts 63 and 430, Federal Register Vol. 58, No. 241, at pp. 66078 and passim. (Hereafter referred to as 40 CFR Parts 63 and 430.) Emphasis added.

20. 40 CFR Parts 63 and 430 at p. 66101.

21. See Bronx Community Paper Company in the Harlem River Yard, Final Environmental Impact Statement, at p. I-11.

22. 40 CFR Parts 63 and 430 at p. 66103.

23. 40 CFR Parts 63 and 430 at pp. 66103-66104.

24. 1994 Toxics Release Inventory: (Washington, D.C: EPA, 1994) at p. 196.

25. Same as above, at p. 68.

26. Based on 1995 production of 12.9 billion pounds, as reported in Chemical and Engineering News, June 24, 1996.

27. See note above.

28. Crude Awakening: The Oil Mess in America: Wasting Energy, Jobs and the Environment, Jack Doyle (Washington, DC: Friends of the Earth, 1994), at p. 175.

29. NRDC-U.S. Senate Recycling Workshop, Eaglebrook Plastics, Chicago Ill., April 6, 1993.

30. Safety At Bay: A Review of Oil Spill Prevention and Cleanup in U.S. Waters, Nina Sankovitch (New York: Natural Resources Defense Council, 1993), at p. 3.

31. Coast-to-Coast Crisis: Hardrock Abandoned Mines in 22 States, Tom Hilliard, (Washington, D.C.: Mineral Policy Center, 1996) at pp. 1 & 2.

32. Cato Institute report, at p. 20.

33. Environmental Myths, at Executive Summary.

34. Tierney, at p. 44.

35. See Bronx Community Paper Company in the Harlem River Yard, Final Environmental Impact Statement, throughout; and Bronx Community Paper Company: Feasibility Study for the High-Grade Deinking Facility, New York, New York, throughout.

36. See, for example, Bronx Community Paper Company in the Harlem River Yard, Final Environmental Impact Statement.

37. 40 CFR Parts 63 and 430, at pp. 66078.

38. Jaakko Poyry, Tapio Korpeinen, President, and John Wissmann, Senior Project Manager, Tarrytown, N.Y., per. com. July 19, 1996.

39. Bronx Community Paper Company in the Harlem River Yard, Final Environmental Impact Statement, at p. 13 and passim.

40. Jaakko Poyry, John Wissmann, per. com. July 19, 1996.

41. Mr. Supro Mukherjea, Senior Vice President, Stone Consolidated, Montreal, Canada., per. com. July 19, 1996.

42. John Tierney on "New York Up-Close", NY1, June 28, 1996.

43. Paper Task Force Recommendations for Purchasing and Using Environmentally Preferable Paper (New York: Environmental Defense Fund, 1995). (Hereafter referred to as Task Force Report.)

44. Task Force Report, at p. 80.

45. The data on water discharges from recycled and virgin mills in the Paper Task Force Report is not recent or facility-specific and uses older industry averages, which is why the chart "carefully" excerpted by "Recycling Is Garbage" can show higher water discharge rates for recycled newsprint mills.

46. "Debunking the Two-Fleet Myth," Peter Anderson, George Dreckman, and John Reindl, Waste Age, October 1995, at pp. 53-60.

47. Same as above.

48. Same as above.

49. Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan: Final Update and Plan Modification, City of New York, Dept. of Sanitation, Feb. 15, 1996.

50. Environmental Myths, at p. 22.

51. Tierney, at p. 29.

52. Environmental Performance Reviews: United States, at p. 44.

53. Jaakko Poyry, Ralf Haggblom, Fiber Resources Senior Consultant, Tarrytown, N.Y., per. com. July 22 and December 2, 1996.

54. Emerging Trends in Southern Timber Supply and Demand Relationships, Ralph E. Colberg, President, Decisions Support, Inc., Columbus, Georgia, 1996 (paper prepared for presentation at the International Woodfiber Conference, Atlanta, GA. May 14-15, 1996), at p. 6. (Hereafter referred to as Trends in Southern Timber Supply.)

55. Timber Supply and Prospects in the South, Frederick W. Cubbage, Robert C. Abt, and Gerardo Pacheco (paper prepared for presentation at the International Woodfiber Conference, Atlanta, GA. May 14-15, 1996), at p. 2. (Hereafter referred to as Timber Prospects in the South.)

56. Jaakko Poyry, Ralf Haggblom, per. com. July 22, 1996.

57. Environmental Performance Reviews: United States, at p. 44.

58. Environmental Performance Reviews: United States, at p. 53.

59. Trends in Southern Timber Supply, at p. 6.

60. Jaakko Poyry, Ralf Haggblom, per. com. December 3, 1996.

61. Environmental Performance Reviews: United States, at p. 43. Emphasis in original.

62. In Search of Nature, E.O. Wilson (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1996), at pp. 194-195.

63. Timber Prospects in the South, at pp. 3-5. Emphasis added.

64. Trends in Southern Timber Supply, at pp. 1-5, 8. Emphasis added.

65. Timber Prospects in the South, at p. 3.

66. Structural Use of Hardwoods, George B. Harpole, in Executive Summaries; 43rd annual meeting; 1988 June, Reno, Nev. (Madison Wis.: Forest Products Research Society; 1988), at pp.45-46. Emphasis added.

67. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, 1986 and 1989 unpublished data.

68. Structural Use of Hardwoods, at p.46.

69. Jaakko Poyry, Ralf Haggblom, per. com. July 22, 1996.

70. Trends in Southern Timber Supply, at p. 7.

71. Same as above.

72. "The Paper Chase," Smith Barney Research Pollution Control Monthly, Vol. VIII, No.7, August 1995, at p. 5.

73. Letter dated July 8, 1996, from Mr. Tapio Korpeinen, President and CEO, Jaakko Poyry Consulting, North America, to New York Times (unpublished).

74. Global Fiber Balances, Dr. James A. McNutt, Jaakko Poyry Consulting (paper presented at Wastepaper VII, Chicago Ill, June 5, 1996).

75. See note above.

76. Tierney, at p. 44.

77. "Waste of A Sort," Wall Street Journal, January 19, 1995, at p. A2.

78. Energy Implications Of Integrated Solid Waste Management Systems, prepared for the New York State Energy Research And Development Authority (Boston: Tellus Institute, 1992) throughout.

79. Does The Solid Waste Management Hierarchy Make Sense?, John Schall, Working Paper Number 1, (New Haven: Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Program on Solid Waste Policy, 1992).

80. "Environmental Lifecycle Comparisons of Recycling, Landfilling and Incineration: A Review of Recent Studies," at p. 4

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