The invention of paper as a cheap alternative to storing and information retrieval which helped information dissemination and education. With an ever-increasing population, the uses and application of paper have proliferated and have seen paper recycling as an alternative to the use of virgin wood and fibre for its production.
Waste paper and recycling methods
Paper recycling involves the conversion of waste paper into tissue, paper towels, paper bags, etc. The process involves mixing appropriate chemicals with the paper which is then heated up to breakdown the structure of the paper into its base form – cellulose. The resulting slurry is called pulp which is the material extracted from trees. The pulp is screened for foreign objects, deinked, and bleached – especially for tissues – before finally pouring them on rollers to make tissues or other products.
Paper contains cellulose in its base form which is a polymer of glucose which can be fermented to produce ethanol.
A tonne of recycled paper protects about 17 trees, 2.5 barrels of fuel, 4100 kWh of electricity over 30,000 litres of water according to some reports.
The Nigerian economy relies majorly on imports for to meet domestic and industrial consumption due to its poor policies and an ever-burgeoning population. Paper mills created after independence in 1960 performed and thrived until they ceased operation in 1996. It is estimated that Nigeria spends about 500 billion naira ($1.32 billion) on theimportation of paper. In Africa, South Africa has the largest amount of employees working in paper making and recycling facilities while Nigeria has less than a 1000 people working in this sector.
Germany’s Recycling Ethos
According to Eurostat data, Germany is the leading nation regarding recycling in the EU leading Austria, Slovenia, Belgium, and Switzerland in that order. The country has dedicated waste collection methods for the various form of waste generated and are appropriately recycled, about 75% of paper is recycled in Germany.
Much of the success enjoyed by Germany stems from the proper waste management policies put in place 1996. The government made stakeholders responsible for the waste they generate with a focus on waste avoidance, recovery and environmentally friendly disposal.
When compared to Nigeria, Germany has about 40,000 people working in the pulp and paper industry even though the West African nation has twice the population of Germany and produces more waste. Germany is seeking to find a use for every form of waste generated and now landfills about one percent of its untreated waste.
Nigeria still relies on landfills as its main method of waste disposal with most recycling companies relying on private waste collectors who supply them with the materials required for production. There is little support from the government and environmentally friendly policies aren’t strictly followed by stakeholders as seen in other sectors of the economy.
Impact on Posterity
Germany has created a laudable template for other countries – both developed and developing – to follow with the benefits that can accrue from proper waste management further shown in the strides recorded by the nation with renewable energy generation. Germany intends to put its 19 nuclear reactors facilities out of service. The US dumps over 50% of its untreated waste in landfills.
Nigeria with the enormous waste it generates annually can benefit from better policies and greater foreign investment to further improve on the strides already made while also effectively exploiting generated waste for viable economic dividends.
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