Is building paper biodegradable? (7 benefits of recycling building paper)

This article will shed light on the biodegradability aspect of building paper. Other covered aspects would include:

  • What is the biodegradability status of building paper?
  • Can building paper be composted?
  • Can building paper be recycled?
  • How can building paper be used and reused sustainably?
  • FAQs

Is building paper biodegradable?

Building paper is biodegradable because it is made from natural materials that include wood pulp. However, building paper may be coated with asphalt which is not biodegradable. 

The primary use of building paper is to prevent moisture from entering houses and buildings. Usually, paper can be composted because of the inclusion of natural materials in it but since building paper may have a layer of asphalt, it is not advisable to compost building paper. 

It is also possible to recycle building paper which is way better than just throwing it away because recycling would lead to better resource and waste management. Also, the burden on natural resources would also be reduced by the effective recycling of building paper. 

What is the biodegradability possibility of building paper?

Building paper can be introduced as a paper that is made from natural materials that include wood pulp. The primary use of building paper is to prevent moisture from entering houses and buildings. 

Building paper is biodegradable because of the use of natural materials in it. It is usually made from kraft paper (also referred to as brown paper with increased lignin content). However, building paper may be coated with asphalt which is not biodegradable. 

Biodegradability can be defined as the breakdown of waste or materials by the action of microbes and enzymes. 

It is a natural process and nature’s own way of dealing with the waste problem. If there is no biodegradability, there will be harmful effects on the people and the planet. 

This is because the waste will cause pollution and will contaminate every aspect and factor associated with life and well-being. That is why we have the concept of biodegradability that is so liked and treasured by scientists and common people as well. 

However, not all materials are biodegradable. As the name suggests, biodegradation is the degradation caused by bio. Bio means life. It is caused by microbes such as bacteria, fungi, algae, et cetera. 

These microbes will only degrade the waste that they deem apt for their nutritional health. Such materials include plant waste, animal waste, manure et cetera. This waste is termed biodegradable waste. 

However, the microbes would not degrade the materials that have no nutritional content. As a result, such material will remain in the system for hundreds of years. Such waste is termed non-biodegradable waste. 

Perhaps the most common example of non-biodegradable waste is plastics. Plastics such as PET or HDPE are fossil-based, synthetic polymers that are not found in nature but are designed or rather synthesised in the labs. 

Let us take an example of PET. PET is a synthetic polymer made from the derivatives of fossil fuels. That is why it may require more than 500 years to degrade. This means PET will remain in the environment or landfill settings for more than 500 years. 

To conclude, we have seen that there are two ways in which a substance is called non-biodegradable. One is the time it takes to degrade and the other is its environmental impact.

Can building paper be composted? 

As regards the disposal options, one of the safest and environmentally friendly approaches is to compost the waste. 

However, not all materials can be composted. There are certain conditions that have to be met to ensure they are suitable for the composting process. 

The necessary prerequisites of composting include: 

  • The product must be biodegradable
  • The product must be non-toxic
  • The product must be rich in organic content
  • The product must not emit harmful fumes
  • The product must not damage the natural order (flora and fauna)

Composting can be defined as the process of making compost from biodegradable waste. The result of composting is compost which may be defined as dead organic matter. Compost may be used as a natural fertiliser that may be a source to improve and augment the organic content of the soil. 

When it comes to composting, most of the paper can be composted. This is naturally because the paper is made from 100% organic and natural materials (such as wood pulp). However, the case is slightly different here. 

Building paper is made from kraft paper (also known as brown paper that has strong lignin content with no use of bleach) and a coat of asphalt. This is done to make it feasible for its commercial applications. 

However, since asphalt is not biodegradable, it is not advised that building paper be composted. There will be a risk of contamination and composting building paper may do more harm than good. 

How to compost building paper?

The composting of building paper can be done by the following steps either at home or through composting centres. In the case of the second, you do not really need much. Just drop the building paper and other compostable waste to the composting centres. 

However, if you wish to compost at home, that is also possible. The key ingredients for composting at home are: 

  • Proper space 
  • Time 
  • Aeration
  • Temperature
  • Brown and green layers 
  • Patience 
  • Utilisation 

The composting at home may be done in the following steps:

  • Selection of suitable site
  • Making pile either openly or in compost bin 
  • Make alternate layers of green (nitrogen rich) and brown (carbon rich) material
  • Regularly aerate and mix the layers 
  • Wait for 5-7 months 
  • Utilise the compost to achieve its benefits 

Can building paper be recycled? (7 benefits)

Consumers who are conscious of the biodegradability status of building paper also want to know if they can recycle building paper. In many ways, recycling is a better alternative to disposal because it implies no waste at all.

As regards the question, yes it is possible to recycle building paper. Building paper is made from natural, non-toxic materials and there would not be any complications when building paper is processed in the recycling facilities.

You may wonder why recycling is important. As regards this question, it can be answered in the following points:

  • Recycling building paper leads to better waste management 
  • Recycling building paper leads to better resource management
  • Recycling building paper leads to improved employment opportunities
  • Recycling building paper leads to decreased use of resources
  • Recycling building paper leads to decreased GHG emissions and greenhouse effect
  • Recycling building paper leads to economic benefits to the consumers and the producers
  • Recycling is regarded as one of the best solutions to deal with non-biodegradable waste such as the asphalt layer in building paper 

When building paper is recycled, it is not needed to be made from scratch. This means that the source is not given any unnecessary burden.

Building paper is made from plant-based materials such as wood pulp. When building paper will be recycled then there would not be any burden on trees.

This will increase the possibility of decreased use of agrochemicals such as fertilisers or pesticides.

Also, when building paper is recycled, half of the production processes would already have been done. This means that there will be decreased energy consumption. And because energy is mostly taken from fossil fuels, it would also mean that by recycling building paper, there will be a decrease in GHG emissions.

This may mitigate the exacerbated environmental conditions and anomalies such as global warming, deforestation, and unprecedented weather patterns.

One factor that must be mentioned here is that recycling is regarded as one of the best solutions to deal with non-biodegradable waste such as plastics. 

This is mainly because when building paper is recycled, its negative impacts on the people and the planet are deterred, if only ephemerally. 

However, you need to know where and how you can recycle building paper to reap these given benefits.

Building paper may be recycled by either disposing of them in recycling bins or by transporting them to the nearest recycling centres. You may also contact the recycling centres via phone or email and request a pick-up. That way, you would not need to go beyond limits to get your building paper recycled.

How can building paper be recycled?

There are two approaches that can be used to recycle building paper. One is the dumping of bags in green-coloured recycling bins. The other is the transportation of building paper to recycling facilities. 

For the second, look up (on the web) about the nearest recycling facilities. Almost all will accept building paper. You may either give it personally or schedule a pickup appointment. 

How is building paper used and are there any reuses?

One better approach than recycling is the reusing of building paper. As per the 3R approach, there are three ways in which waste may be dealt with. These include: 

  • Reducing 
  • Reusing 
  • Recycling

As you may see, recycling is the least preferred option among the three. This is because even though recycling leads to a decreased use of resources, there are still resources being used. 

This is mainly because when building paper is carefully used or reused, the environmental effects are mitigated. Further, there will be less cutting of trees (as trees are the major source of wood pulp). 

Trees are very important for our survival and thriving. When trees are there, there is the absorption of carbon dioxide and the provision of oxygen. This is called atmospheric cleansing because oxygen is very important for our survival. 

Also, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. When there is more carbon dioxide, there will be fervent implications of it. The result will be an increase in the overall global temperature. This is called global warming. 

However, the story does not end here. Global warming will also have other repercussions as well. This is mainly because the engine of the Earth is lineage and linkage. 

Among the reciprocal effects of global warming, there will be

  • Melting of glaciers
  • Rising sea levels
  • Unprecedented weather patterns
  • Deforestation 
  • Soil erosion
  • Soil infertility
  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • Substantial losses 
  • Species endangerment
  • Destruction of habitats 

Another important aspect that needs to be covered is that when trees are cut, there is also the destruction of habitats. Also, the problems of water logging and soil erosion are also there. 

This will impact the overall ecosystems such as forest ecosystems. The areas where there is deforestation would also be more prone to environmental catastrophes. 

For example, in case of floods, the areas where there is a good tree count are better off as compared to areas where the tree count is not substantial enough. 

As regards the sustainable use of building paper, the primary use of building paper is to wrap the house so that it may be protected from the entering of moisture and water. 

Since building paper is mainly adhered to commercial applications, there are no significant reuses of building paper other than recycling so that it may be reused after modifications. 

As regards the disposal options, building paper may either be:

  • Incinerated 
  • Disposed of in landfill

Both options have their pros and cons. Incineration will lead to more GHG production and increased use of energy. Air pollution will also be contributed by the incineration process. 

Landfilling can be regarded as comparatively inert. However, toxic materials may seep into the ground and cause problems for both life and the environment. This invites producers to make 100% biodegradable building paper so that these complications may be avoided. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that building paper is biodegradable because it is made from natural materials that include wood pulp. However, building paper may be coated with asphalt which is not biodegradable. 

The primary use of building paper is to prevent moisture from entering houses and buildings. Usually, paper can be composted because of the inclusion of natural materials in it but since building paper may have a layer of asphalt, it is not advisable to compost building paper. 

It is also possible to recycle building paper which is way better than just throwing it away because recycling would lead to better resource and waste management. Also, the burden on natural resources would also be reduced by the effective recycling of building paper. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Is building paper biodegradable?

What is the degradation time for a building paper?

Tissue papers such as building paper may degrade in about one month. The exact duration may vary based on external conditions. 

Is building paper eco-friendly?

Yes, building paper is eco-friendly because it is natural while also being biodegradable and compostable. 

References

  • Beckline, M., Yujun, S., Eric, Z., & Kato, M. S. (2016). Paper consumption and environmental impact in an emerging economy. J. Energy, Environ. Chem. Eng, 1(1), 13-18.
  • Pommier, S., Llamas, A. M., & Lefebvre, X. (2010). Analysis of the outcome of shredding pretreatment on the anaerobic biodegradability of paper and cardboard materials. Bioresource Technology, 101(2), 463-468.
  • Vikman, M., Vartiainen, J., Tsitko, I., & Korhonen, P. (2015). Biodegradability and compostability of nanofibrillar cellulose-based products. Journal of Polymers and the Environment, 23(2), 206-215.
  • Ekinci, K., Keener, H. M., & Elwell, D. L. (2000). Composting short paper fiber with broiler litter and additives. Compost Science & Utilization, 8(2).
  • (February 3, 2010). The purpose of Building Paper. Retrieved from https://www.klondikecontracting.com/the-purpose-of-building-paper/

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