When you look around Pawling, what do you see? Nice, little stores, kids having fun, and people playing sports. Do you know what we see? Trashcans overflowing with discarded brown paper bags and old take-out menus from restaurants. Thrown-away coffee cups and random napkins lying on the sidewalks. And what do these all have in common? They are made of paper. Paper is everywhere, and wasted paper destroys our air. We need help to prevent further polluted air, and you, the people of Pawling, can help. We need your help. Pawling needs your help.
The amount of paper wasted needs to decrease. Each year so much paper is wasted that you could build a 12-foot-high wall from New York to California, according to The World Counts (TheWorldCounts.com). Fourteen percent of all global wood harvested is being used to make paper, and much of that paper is not even used. Why is that a problem? Well, trees are important to us because we breathe in oxygen, and trees release oxygen. So, if we continue to destroy our trees, we are actually destroying ourselves.
Paper waste doesn’t just affect our trees. It also affects air quality. This happens because when you throw a piece of paper into the trash, it goes to a landfill or incinerator. Paper releases methane when it decomposes and carbon dioxide when it is composted or burned, and this causes our air to be more polluted, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.gov). The only way to stop this is to use less paper or recycle it properly.
Now, let’s think about our landfills. You probably didn’t realize that most of the trash is paper; 50% of all waste in the U.S. is actually paper! Landfills are overflowing with trash. According to Waste-Free Mail (WasteFreeMail.com), each year, Americans use more than 90 million tons of paper. That’s an average of 700 pounds of paper products per person each year. The population of America in 2018 was 326.7 million, so if you do the math, that’s at least 227,990,000,000 tons of paper wasted annually.
However, there are some easy ways to prevent further paper waste. Next time you are at the store, buy 100% recycled paper for your printer or for your crafts. If you accidently print something that you don’t need, put it in the recycling bin not the trash. Need a sip of water, and there are paper cups beside the fountain? Forgo the cup and put the water into a reusable bottle. If you ever see any receipts or paper cups lying on the ground, put them into a nearby recycling bin. Commit yourself to the cause. Purchase cloth napkins, contact your bank and ask for online bills only, write down notes in your ever-present iPhone or Samsung rather than on a post-it that will most likely disappear anyway. These little changes can make a difference.
If you walk through Pawling after everyone has contributed with these modifications, now what would you see? You would see trashcans with almost no trash in them, and the sidewalks and roads all free of garbage. In the stores no paper bags are in sight, only reusable ones. The community would seem neater and the air fresher. If you want to see these clean sidewalks with no trash and a “fresher” Pawling, take the pledge to stop wasting paper. Pawling needs you to help.
Klara Dziurdzinski, Ethan Khorosh, and Emily Mascia are students in the sixth grade at Pawling Central Middle School.