We posted a while ago about how much fresh drinking water is wasted on ice for chilling drinks and food in coolers every year. Never really thought about it until I read that article. I don’t use much ice, but most people I know do. It makes their life more convenient and pleasant. So do paper towels. Most households go through a lot of paper towels every week. I try not to, because using them isn’t necessary unless you’re cleaning up something really foul or will ruin a rag. It’s not like they’re free.
Between the paper toweling in public restrooms, institutions, businesses, and home consumption, the US goes through 3,000 tons of paper towels EVERY DAY. In a year’s time, that mountain of soggy, gooey paper towels weighs 1,095,000 tons. It’s hard to imagine a pile of anything that big. Most of it generated because it’s convenient and you don’t have to wash it after using it. Do you have any idea how many trees must die to make just one year’s worth of paper towel waste?
Approaching 19 million trees sacrificed annually, so you can throw them away. Paper towels are made from virgin pulp wood. It takes 17 big trees to make a single ton… along with 20,000 gallons of water that is polluted in the process.
The whitening process is done with some scary chemicals. You wouldn’t want to eat fish caught anywhere near a paper plant. Have you looked at the inside of a tree? It isn’t bright white. Not even close. Do some history research on the state of water in the rivers paper mills sit next too in the past. Toxic times two.
Creating that basically 1.1 million tons of convenient paper towels tossed in the trash destroys this much fresh water annually:
Where do you suppose they keep that much water so it won’t get into the ground water or water ways? That’s 21.9 billion gallons a year, mind you – enough to fill the huge lake. You think they’re reusing it? Seen a toxic water storage depot the size of Texas anywhere lately?
You might want to rethink your relationship with paper towels. The price of the convenience factor just bypassed money by a mile. The more you buy, the more trees will die, and the more fresh water is wasted. Buy some rags. Dollar store wash cloths make great multi-purpose rags. Old bed sheets are excellent disposable wipes – easily found at garage sales everywhere really cheap.
If people bought far less paper towels, a lot less trees would be cut down, and less water would be polluted. It’s all about supply and demand. Stop taking it off the shelf, and they’ll soon stop making so much of it.
And this is just one form of disposable paper product we’re looking at. Toilet paper is one thing, there isn’t many alternatives there, but paper plates, paper cups, etc?
Recycled paper does save trees, but it still uses water – half of what it takes to make it from fresh pulp wood. So think next time you reach for the roll. Is that paper towel in your hand really worth all the fresh water and clean air lost for the task? If not, save it for later and go get a rag, a sponge, a dish cloth, a towel – something that is reusable.
Here’s one more thing that no one really thinks about past the convenience factor:
Is it really that hard to wash the silverware?
Poster courtesy of Farmer’s Pal