You might think that something as commonplace as paper would be
simple and easy to buy. And it's true that buying paper in small
quantities can be a simple retail transaction. But buying paper
in large quantities, or as a well-informed consumer, is a lot more
like buying a car than like buying groceries. The more that you
know about how the paper is made, what the terms mean, and how the
industry operates, the better equipped you'll be to get the environmental
papers you want, help develop the markets for these papers so they
become even more available and cost-effective, and advance benefits
to the environment.
In this section, you can learn more about paper and the paper industry,
as well as about the related environmental issues and what you can
- The history of paper
is fascinating. If it weren't for paper, there's a good chance
you wouldn't know how to read, history would only be as reliable
as the memories of storytellers, the printing press would have
been an odd and marginal contraption, there would be little chance
of your taking up drawing as an artist, and we wouldn't have developed
the technology and economic systems we have today. A checkered
history? Perhaps. But a surprising number of the developments
that led to the society we live in now could not have happened
without the development of paper.
- How is paper made? We provide a brief description, then link
you to fascinating on-line paper museums. You'll want to know
how the pulp is made, too, from which the paper is made, and whether
recycled pulp creates any environmental problems.
- How does the paper industry work? How
is paper distributed? What do the different paper
industry terms mean in the articles you read?
- What definitions
should you use to specify different kinds of environmental papers?
What content standards should they meet to "qualify"?
How are they labeled?
Are there programs to certify that they are what their manufacturers
claim them to be?
- What are the answers to Frequently Asked Questions?
- What is this whole field of environmental papers about, anyway?
It seems there's always some new angle - is it just one issue
after another, or do they fit together into a bigger picture?
Read our overview of the essential
issues. Soon we'll be following it up with a vision for the
- Sometimes the less said, the clearer the picture. Look at our
brief At A Glance overview. Statistics are always developing,
changing as more insights are gained, deepening our understanding,
uncovering new points, making the issues graphic.
- Environmental papers started with recycled paper, which grew
out of solid waste concerns in the 1970s and 1980s. Solid waste
is still a central factor in understanding this field. Does it
matter if we bury all our trash? Why not just incinerate it all
and get some energy, to boot? Did you realize that our federal
and state governments, as well as corporate structures and cultural
attitudes, create powerful incentives to waste instead of conserve
Today, more and more communities are converting their recycling
programs to single stream
collection and processing. Their residents and businesses are
told to not bother sorting, just throw everything together and
let the processors sort all the materials back out. But many recycled
product manufacturers say this is creating nightmares at their
mills. See our reports and "walk through" our Roundtable
meeting that brought California recyclers together to start developing
solutions to the problems. We're working on a Single Stream Best
Practices Manual that we expect to have available by the end of
- Think you know all about environmental paper issues? Take our
Pop Quiz and find out.
- Throughout this site, we Explode the Myths on many different
topics. Here's where they're all organized, so you can be sure
you haven't missed any.
- We're constantly getting new questions, or old ones we haven't
answered well enough or that need to be revisited. Unfortunately,
we don't have the resources to answer everyone directly who contacts
us. But we will make every effort to answer the question and put
it up in our Recently Asked Questions.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
There are so many things you can do to encourage the development
of environmental papers and the conversion of the paper industry
to a more resource-protective model.
- Find out how even individuals can make a difference.
- Companies can increase their environmental purchasing clout
by joining organizations dedicated to strengthening and expanding
- Different aspects of the paper issues call for different approaches.
Who's doing what, and how can you help?