Despite advances in the creation and use of digital media and information technology over the past 20 years, paper is still everywhere. The printing industry played a huge role in the industrial revolution and as literacy rates increased, news print became the most widespread and accessible source of communication. Even today in the 21st century, the use of print media is still considered to be an effective method of targeting certain focus groups despite it facing stiff competition from the Internet and other sources of digital media.
Paper manufacturing depletes natural resources, consumes energy, requires the use of chemicals and creates various different streams of waste. Originally, the process required huge amounts of energy and is still a significant source of pollution, but awareness of its environmental impacts and creation of cleaner technology has reduced the volume and toxicity of both waste effluent and gaseous emissions.
Each year more than 300 million tonnes of paper and paper products are produced worldwide. In recent years the United States has been the leading producer of paper, with China in second and Japan in third place. Despite information technology’s promise to reduce the massive volumes of paper the opposite has occurred. The advancement of information technology in the 1980s coupled with developments in computer software, have presented improved methods of data collection and transference. While their aim may initially have been to reduce paper use, they failed to do so and have in turn created the opposite effect. This increase is due to computers being used to access information and printing being the best method of obtaining tangible pieces of this data. In fact research has shown that the use of e-mail in organisations increased paper consumption by 40%. But paper use is not confined solely to offices.
Paper and paper products are used extensively in packaging. A 2006 report on the mass balance movement of resource flows within the UK indicated that paper and board industry consumed 7.8 million tonnes of raw materials in 2000.
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