Engineering, Sustainability

What does it take to make one A4 size paper?

We start off by doing a small calculation from a reputed text book. The text book is Shreve’s Chemical Process Industries, which is a textbook adopted in the chemical engineering curriculum of many reputed colleges.

An A4 size office paper of normal quality weighs 5 grams. It is easy for one to pro-rate the above table and estimate what it takes to make 5 grams of paper.

Based on 1982 data, to make an A4 paper you would need:

  • 22.5 g  Chemicals
  • 665 ml  Water
  • 3.5 ml  Oil or 5 grams of coal
  • 20 cc Wood
  • 23.76 kJ Power

Well, the story does not stop here. I know that the paper industry has adopted better manufacturing methods and today the specific consumption for making paper could be a little different. Today’s processes use significant amounts of recycle paper, use lesser water. Again, the amount of paper recycled and water conserved in different plants /countries is different, so it becomes difficult to establish an exact global average in a brief article.

Nevertheless, a few parallels can be drawn.

Every time you waste an A4 paper at office, conservatively, I can assume that, you also waste a large cup of water, a spoon full of coal (or oil), another spoonful of various chemicals, energy sufficient to keep a 40 W bulb glowing for 10 minutes and wood whose weight could be 2-4 times the weight of the paper, depending on the amount of recycle paper used.

Every time you throw a piece of paper into a dust bin, imagine yourself wasting all the other resources as well. I’m sure you’ll find it a lot easier to save paper.

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