The European society’s standard of living have grown rapidly in recent decades with municipal and manufacturing waste also increasing.
As a result of increased standards of living:
- The population can afford to buy new products, and they are convenient and easy to access.
- There are so many goods available that a lot of them are discarded without even using them.
- Products produced today are unable to meet the consumer’s needs for a long time and are replaced with newer and better products on a regular basis.
According to Eurostat data of 2018, each European citizen produces on average 492 kg of municipal waste per year representing a total of around 220 million tonnes of waste per year. 48% of this waste is recycled, while the remaining 52% of municipal waste is disposed of or incinerated in landfills.
Landfilling and incineration of waste cause environmental pollution damaging the ecosystem, polluting the air, and contributing to global warming.
Decomposition (decay and putrefaction) of landfilled municipal waste results in methane gases (CH4), while incineration leads to the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air.
These are the most common greenhouse gases contributing to global warming – the fastest-growing environmental problem in the world.
WHAT AMOUNT OF MUNICIPAL WASTE ACCOUNTS FOR WASTE PAPER
Paper or waste paper accounts for 30% of all municipal waste.
Waste paper is recycled relatively well – on average 70% of the paper in Europe is recycled. However, a large amount of paper is still landfilled or incinerated in landfills.
Around 23 million tonnes of waste paper come to European landfills every year.
WHY IS WASTE PAPER BURIED IN LANDFILLS?
Waste paper is a material that can be easily and successfully recycled and used as a resource for the production of new products. However, a large part of the waste paper that could be recycled goes to landfills. The most common reason for this is:
FAILURE TO SORT MUNICIPAL WASTE
Most often, paper and paper products are pooled together with all other municipal waste in the waste basket and delivered to landfills for disposal or incineration together with the rest of the waste.
INCORRECT SORTING OF PAPER WASTE
It is important not only to sort waste but also to do it in the right way.
Paper or paper products must not contain metal, plastic, or other materials. For example, paper cannot be laminated or discarded with a metal spiral.
It is important that paper is clean and does not contain food residues or other substances.
This type of paper is not recyclable and its presence in a common paper sorting container can damage all its contents. As a result, the contents of the container may be added to unsorted municipal waste and delivered to the landfill for disposal or incineration together with other unsorted municipal waste.
The composite material is a material consisting of more than one material.
Paper and paper products are not always recyclable, or their recycling process is more complicated and time-consuming than recycling clean paper. For example, many paper packages are composite materials that do not meet the conditions set for recyclable waste paper.
Most commonly, paper is used in the manufacture of packaging together with other types of materials, whose recycling process is much more complicated or completely different from the paper recycling process. Tetra packs are a clear example, which uses 3 different materials – paper, aluminum, and polyethylene.
These types of paper articles are not considered to be recyclable waste paper and they are most frequently landfilled.
WHY LANDFILLING OF WASTE PAPER IS A PROBLEM?
Paper decomposes well in nature and does this relatively quickly compared to other municipal waste materials, such as plastics, metals, or glass.
In nature, clean paper can decompose within on average 2-6 weeks. However, the amount of waste paper coming to landfills is so large that its landfilling is challenging for both waste management and the environment.
Waste management requires not only large economic resources but also huge territories. As waste volumes grow, the need for new territories to bury them is also increasing. They also include waste paper which could be used as a secondary production resource rather than landfilled taking away space from the waste that cannot be recycled and whose only management method is its disposal.
Consequently, if the amount of waste that is unnecessarily landfilled is not reduced, additional territories will be needed for waste disposal.
Clean paper can degrade in nature within on average a month, but most of the waste paper that goes to landfills is composite materials.
Consequently, its full decomposition may take years. For example, the natural decomposition of a cardboard milk pack can take 5 years.
Paper waste is easily degradable in nature – it biodegrades by decaying or putrefaction. Biodegradability also means aerobic decomposition of material resulting not only in biomass and mineral salts but also in methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide CO2, which pollutes soil, groundwater, and air.
INNOVATIVE PROJECT FOR RECYCLING OF WASTE PAPER
For financing of SIA Balticfloc LIFE programme LIFE_PHIPP (LIFE17 ENV/LV/000335), which will solve the problem of recycling of hard-to-recycle waste paper (low-class waste paper) into new products.
Within the framework of the LIFE_PHIPP (LIFE17 ENV/LV/000335) project, low-class waste paper will be recycled, producing a heat insulation material in combination with the high-value hemp fibre.
A pilot production line will be created in Latvia, and it is planned to show environmental benefits and profitability during the production process.
PROJECT “PAPER – HEMP INSULATION PILOT PRODUCTION” (LIFE PHIPP, LIFE17ENV/LV/000335) IS IMPLEMENTED WITH THE FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION LIFE PROGRAM AND STATE REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY REPUBLIC OF LATVIA ADMINISTRATION OF LATVIAN ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION FUND.