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Is Paper Biodegradable? Get to Know 3 Incredible Facts!

Is paper biodegradable

From birth to death of a human, paper is used for writing, drawing, printing, wrapping, and packaging. Even you can’t skip any field, department, or sector where paper is not used. So, a question may arise that is paper biodegradable or not? Moreover, there are other modes of using and managing paper waste. Various relevant queries are addressable. 

This is because of enough use of paper. Although there may be several factors behind it, the major ones must be mentioned comprehensively. So, here in this guide, you will explore paper from different angles and dimensions (not by measurement, but rather by usage and waste management). So, let’s begin and see is paper biodegradable with some amazing facts…

What is biodegradability?

Biodegradability refers to the ability of a material to break down into simpler components through the action of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and other biological agents. These microorganisms consume the material and convert it into water, carbon dioxide, and other natural compounds. The process of biodegradation is a natural process that occurs in the environment and plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems.

Is paper biodegradable?

The answer to this question is both Yes and No. Seems confused! Let me cover both perspectives.

Why is it degradable?

Paper is made from natural materials such as wood pulp, cotton, or hemp fibers, which are biodegradable. Because all of them are plant fibres, primarily cellulose, which is a natural polymer that can break down in the presence of microorganisms. 

When paper is buried in the soil or dumped in a landfill, microorganisms in the soil will break down the cellulose fibres, converting them into carbon dioxide, water, and other organic compounds.

Why It’s NOTdegradable?

However, the manufacturing process of paper involves the use of chemicals such as bleaches, dyes, and coatings that can make the paper less biodegradable. In addition, the disposal of paper can also affect its biodegradability.

Additionally, paper that has been contaminated with substances that are harmful to the environment, such as heavy metals or toxic chemicals, may not be biodegradable. The harmful substances can harm the microorganisms that are responsible for breaking down the paper, leading to a slower decomposition process.

See the Manufacturing Process of Paper & Its Effects on Biodegradability

There are some steps involved in manufacturing paper. Such as;

  • Harvesting 

The process begins with the harvesting of trees, which are then debarked and turned into wood chips. 

  • Pulping 

The wood chips are then cooked in a chemical solution to break down the lignin and separate the cellulose fibers. This process is known as pulping and can involve the use of chemicals such as chlorine, which can have a negative impact on the environment

  • Washed, Bleached, & Refined

Once the pulp is produced, it is then washed, bleached, and refined to produce the final product.

Using chemicals in the paper manufacturing process can affect the biodegradability of paper. For example, chlorine bleach is commonly used to whiten paper, but it can leave behind toxic residues that can harm the environment. 

In addition, some paper coatings, such as those used in glossy magazines, are made from non-biodegradable materials such as plastic, which can take hundreds of years to decompose due to the presence of chemicals that inhibit the growth of microorganisms.

How to Biodegrade Paper

While the paper is biodegradable, it is important to dispose of it correctly to ensure that it decomposes as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

When paper is buried in a landfill, it is exposed to very little oxygen, which slows down the decomposition process. Therefore, it is preferable to compost paper or recycle it rather than throw it away in the trash.


How to Compost Paper

Composting is a process that involves breaking down organic materials, such as food scraps, leaves, and paper, into a nutrient-rich soil amendment called compost.

Composting paper is an effective way to reduce waste and improve soil quality. However, it is important to note that not all paper types are suitable for composting. For example, glossy paper and paper with colored ink may contain chemicals that are harmful to the microorganisms that break down organic matter. Therefore, it is best to use unbleached, plain paper for composting.

How to Recycle Paper

Recycling paper is another way to reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact of paper production. When paper is recycled, it is broken down into pulp, which is then used to make new paper products. Recycling paper saves trees, conserves energy, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, recycled paper is often less expensive to produce than virgin paper.

Incredible Facts about Paper Biodegradability

Though you now understand is paper biodegradable or not. Here are some incredible facts about paper biodegradability that you may find surprising:

The paper has been used for thousands of years.

The earliest known paper was made from plant fibers and used in ancient China more than 2,000 years ago. Over time, papermaking spread to other parts of the world, including the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Today, paper is one of the most widely used materials in the world, with an estimated 400 million tons produced each year.

Paper is made from renewable resources.

Paper is made from plant fibers, primarily from trees, but also from other renewable resources such as hemp, cotton, and bamboo. Trees used for paper production are grown specifically for that purpose and are often harvested from sustainable resources. 

The laminated paper takes longer to biodegrade

Laminated paper, which is paper that has been coated with plastic, takes longer to biodegrade than regular paper. This is because the plastic coating inhibits the natural biodegradation process. Ultimately there are years to biodegrade such laminated papers, which exhibits a negative aspect for biodegradability factor of paper. 

Summing Up

Hopefully, you have sorted out the query – is paper biodegradable or not? There are somewhat mixed remarks as paper is recyclable but not all types. Most papers can be recycled max 5 times. But some paper quality is failed to be recyclable and even takes more time to biodegrade into the environment. Various such concerns make the paper a good as well as bad option for regular use. In addition, the overuse of paper causes deforestation. But a particular ratio of recycled paper can become again in use. Thus, both aspects matter a lot. 

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