Water plays a significant role in producing paper; according to WaterFootprint.org, 10 liters of water is needed to create one A4-sheet of paper. When it comes to creating magazines, journals and newspapers, there is a laundry list of resources needed and an even longer list of environmental damages. What on earth could paper mills need water for? Well, you have to start from the beginning, because water is needed throughout the entire paper production cycle — from harvesting the trees for wood and processing the pulp into paper, water is an important element. WaterFootprint.org created a report on the water required for paper production, and in order to print hard copies of the 33-page document, 200 liters of water were used. Consuming freshwater for paper products happens all over the world, and paper mills have an unquenchable thirst. Take one Wisconsin paper mill, for instance. Every year, 547.5 million gallons of water was fed into water-cooled air compressors. Now this paper mill has 547.5 million gallons of water savings per year since switching to air-cooled rotary screw compressors. Israel’s Mondi hadera Paper has a goal to create a closed water cycle and reduce liquid discharges to zero. This paper mill’s water consumption in 2009 was 2.1 cubic millimeters and a wastewater flow of 1.6 cubic millimeters, and as a result, they produced 330,000 tons of white, brown and tissue paper. In an effort to reduce its consumption, a pilot softening plant has been installed so that water can be purified and reused. Since 1994, paper makers have reduced their yearly water consumption by more than 14%. This decrease has come about because of improved wastewater treatment installations that remove effluents such as solids, nutrients and organic substances, which enable the water to be recycled and reused. Even so, the paper production process is still sucking the earth dry. Water is a precious resource that is required for the survival of all living things, so it’s imperative that paper mills take action and try to reduce their consumption of water as much as possible. Now that you know the water facts, think before you print.
Paper Mills’ Thirst for Water
Even after recent reductions in water usage, paper milling still has a long way to conserve.