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[Opinion] The Economics of Making Paper

Posted October. 10, 2008 23:44,   


The process of making toilet paper is complicated. Used copy machine paper, newspaper or magazines are put into a pulp machine that combines them with water and chemicals to make liquid slurry. Then the pulp goes through bleaching, dehydration, compression, drying, texturing and packaging. In the drying process alone, 290,000 kilowatts of electricity per ton is consumed, equal to 1,330 times the power used to air condition one home per month. An increase of just one percent in recycling can save 2.9 million U.S. dollars a year.

Disposable paper cups are covered with polyethylene coating to make them waterproof, but once crumbled, they are difficult to recycle. Again, just a one-percent hike in recycling can save 46.37 million dollars per year. Producing a ton of copy paper requires 1.5 tons of wood, most of it imported. Recycling a ton of used paper can save 17 logs, 28 tons of water, and 4,200 kilowatts of electricity per hour. Ballpoint pen ink is made from African rubber tree sap and its plastic tube comes from Middle Eastern crude oil. All of these materials equal dollars for Korea, which is completely dependent on foreign oil.

Steam rice cookers can save 26 dollars a year, while reducing TV viewing two hours a day can save four dollars a year. For every extra 10 kilograms carried in a vehicle, fuel efficiency can drop by costing 80 cubic centimeters of additional gas while driving 50 kilometers per hour. Driving with an empty trunk, however, saves 26 dollars a year. Saving just three kilowatts of electricity a month in 10 percent of the country’s 15 million households can save 5.47 million dollars. Reducing gas usage by just one level can save 6.38 million dollars. The Knowledge Economy Ministry says a 10-percent cut in oil consumption can save Korea 12.2 billion dollars per year.

The main reason for the “runaway” won-dollar rate that has triggered financial turmoil is a dollar shortage. Banks are making all-out efforts to increase their foreign currency reserves. If each of the 8.87 million Korean tourists in August saved 50 dollars from their overseas trips, this would have resulted in savings of 440 million dollars. If this money was deposited at the time, the country’s financial situation would have been better. Instead of waiting for the government and companies to come to the rescue, individuals and households should also join forces to overcome the crisis.

Editorial Writer Huh Mun-myeong (angelhuh@donga.com)