The pros and cons of Paper

When you start your zero waste journey, paper is often the first choice. Paper products are an easily and widely available alternative to plastic products. However, there are also lots of downsides to paper products. These cons will be discussed below. First I would like to mention some of the benefits of paper products.

Downside of paper

Pros of paper products


The biggest advantage of paper is that it can be decomposed more easily compared to plastic products.


Paper products can be recycled which helps the environment and it shows that you care about the environment. With recycling, there are less pollution and dumping of paper trash into landfills. This prevents hazardous gases from entering our atmosphere when the paper would be burned in a landfill.


The paper industry (and the paper recycling industry) creates lots of jobs for men and women around the world. Which is great for the economy worldwide. When paper is recycled, it saves a lot of trees that will not have to be cut down.


Cons of paper products


With the improvements in the technology of more efficiently making paper and paper products, disposable paper becomes much more affordable for the average consumer. This results in a drastic increase in consumption and paper pollution. It is estimated that 40% of the waste in the US is paper.


This increase in paper demand causes endangerment of natural habitats. This is because 14 million trees are cut down yearly for the manufacturing of paper. This is over 30 million acres/100.000 square kilometer of forest that are destroyed annually for the production of paper. So, the paper industry is a big contributor to deforestation and is partly to blame for the endangerment of some species that live in those forests.


Paper production requires lots of water. A US Letter/A4 size paper requires 2,6 gallon/10 liters of water for the production of one sheet.


Paper and pulp manufacture discharge water polluted with inorganic materials like chlorine and metal compounds which contribute to soil and water pollution affecting all life in the water.


The paper industry is the 5th largest consumer of fossil fuel in the world. To produce 1 ton of paper approximately 253 gallons /950 liters of petroleum is required.


The production of paper produces 70% more air pollution and 50 times more water pollution than plastic bag production.


It takes more than 4 times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag compared to a plastic bag.

Downside of paper

I think I am not alone when I say that the downsides of the production of paper shocked me. The amount of water and petroleum required for paper production really surprised me. Also the chemicals involved for the production and recycling of paper is just horrible.


So, what can you do to minimize paper pollution? 

Only use paper when you really need it. Keep your documents digital when possible. When you need paper, use only recycled paper that was environmentally friendly manufactured. Make the people around you aware to be more conscious about recycling. It will be a challenge but we make the world a little better one small step at a time. 

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Write a comment

Comments: 5
  • #1

    Eco Friendly Mama (Monday, 08 April 2019 23:56)

    This is such a sad reality check about paper waste. There ARE some printing companies out there that use sustainable printing practices including water-free printing techniques, but not enough. We need to keep pushing the paper and printing industries to reduce their footprints. Because, clearly, switching to plastic alternatives is not the solution.

  • #2

    Carin (Tuesday, 09 April 2019 06:16)

    Such an eye opener! Since I started saving all papers with at least one blank side so the kids can draw on them, I have been quite shocked with how much paper that comes in to our home. Even though Sweden is really far ahead with sending government documents electronically there is still paper everywhere. At least we don't have to buy any drawing paper ever again :)

  • #3

    Barbara Alfeo (Tuesday, 09 April 2019 16:43)

    Ugh such a bummer. It's tough when it feels like there is no good option.

  • #4

    Hannah (Tuesday, 09 April 2019 18:05)

    interesting analysis ... the numbers are shocking and I would say reduce the paper altogether. Or use handmade natural fibre paper :) I dropped TP too ... its been 11 days :D

  • #5

    Kayla | Writing From Nowhere (Wednesday, 10 April 2019 10:51)

    This is the second conversation I've heard in the past week about the downsides of paper - what an eye opener! I think it just goes to show that anything disposable should be really considered, even if it's not plastic. Great post! :)