Washington State Adopts Ambitious Green Paper Law

Washington State Adopts Ambitious Green Paper Law

Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire yesterday signed into law a rule that aims to transform how the state uses paper, saving tons of waste, emissions and money while also creating jobs and spurring innovation.

The state's new paper recycling and conservation act requires all state agencies and state colleges to purchase paper containing 100 percent post-consumer recycled content by the end of this year.

In addition, the law aims to reduce paper and print waste: All buildings with 25 or more employees must recycle 100 percent of the copy and printing paper in use in the office, and must reduce their printing and copying use by 30 percent by July 2010.

Gregoire and the representatives who sponsored the legislation, Lynn Kessler and Kevin Van De Wege, see the law as a win-win: Any increase in cost from purchasing the 100 percent recycled paper will be offset by paper-reduction strategies like double-sided printing and paper conservation programs.

The state's Department of Ecology estimates the increased paper conservation and recycling requirements will save state taxpayers about $1 million per year. And a requirement in the law to purchase or lease only printers capable of efficiently using 100 percent recycled content white sheet bond paper, as well increased takeback of paper for recycling and reuse, will help build infrastructure and jobs in the state.

"Washington has a proud tradition of producing the wood and paper products that the world needs," Rep. Kessler said in a statement. "Our new paper conservation and recycling law helps open up new markets for green products created by blue-collar workers right here in our state -- jobs that won't be exported."

Other savings from the law are projected to include:

• Use 6,256 tons less wood -- the equivalent of about 43,000 trees.
• Produce 3.8 million pounds less in climate-changing greenhouse gases -- the equivalent of about 346 cars per year -- in producing the paper.
• Use 15.7 million gallons less water -- the equivalent of about 24 swimming pools -- in producing the paper.
• Create 2 million pounds less solid waste sent to landfills -- the equivalent of about 72 garbage truck loads.

In early 2008, Frank Marquardt profiled Grays Harbor Paper for GreenBiz.com, one of the Washington-based companies that sees this new law as boon. Also in 2008, Tensie Whelan of the Rainforest Alliance outlined responsible paper purchasing steps and Pulpwatch.org rated paper mills on their environmental and social performance.

Forest photo CC-licensed by Flickr user (le)doo.

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