The world uses approximately 5 trillion plastic bags a year, of which only 1% are recycled, with an estimated million sea birds killed by these and other forms of non-biodegradable plastics in our oceans each year, and another 100 000 marine mammals meeting a similarly horrible fate for the same reasons. Unfortunately plastics are a part of life, whether you like it or not; from your computer to motor car and just about every other consumer product you can name. We better get used to thinking about plastics in a more sustainable way, and quickly, or these products on their own will cause untold grief for generations to come. Recycled plastics should be a growth industry and an important job creator. One solution is to use other materials, such as paper. Plants used for paper production are generally grown as an agricultural commodity like maize, wheat etc. Sappi says its tree improvement programs have resulted in 15% higher yield per tree over the last 15 years with more than one tree planted for every tree harvested to ensure sustainability. Water requirements for paper are surprisingly little. Sappi says only 2.7% of SA’s available water is used in the process of its paper manufacturing. Sappi plants 16 600 new trees each year, each of which absorbs 200kg of carbon annually.
Recycle, re-use. We don’t have a planet B.