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How Do Paper Cards Impact The Environment

paper cards vs. plastic cards

Businesses and organizations are moving towards paper and paper cards for their packaging, domestic, and commercial usage. According to Statista, the US paper production in the year 2020 was 68 million metric tons. This shift from plastic to paper is due to intensive regulations of governments all over the globe. These regulations are for the protection of the environment of this world from the lethal effects of plastic.

The commercial usage of paper and paper cards seems more eco-friendly than plastic & plastic cards. But is it really true?

The answer to this question is “absolutely not”. The production of paper results in deforestation, emission of greenhouse gases, and intensive consumption of natural resources. Furthermore, the carbon footprint for the production of paper and paper cards is more than the carbon footprint for the production of plastic. In addition to this, paper is a more heavy material than plastic. So the fuel consumption for transportation of paper is much higher than the transportation of plastic.

To better address this question, we have to know the whole life of paper and paper cards. In this blog post, I will tell you all about the life of a paper card and its environmental impacts. I will also explain that why we should neither use paper nor plastic? What is the sustainable alternative to paper and plastic? So let’s start with the birth of paper and paper cards.


Birth: How a paper card is produced?


The life of a paper card starts with the collection of raw material for the manufacturing of paper. The raw material for paper production is wood pulp that is obtained through different sources i.e. wood, cotton, bamboo, hemp, sugar cane waste and etc. However, wood is the chief source of pulp. The manufacturing process of paper consists of the following steps:

  1. The pulping process makes pulp from recycling materials or raw virgin materials.
  2. Treatment of pulp in the paper machine to make paper.

Pulping process:

First of all, raw materials are treated to make pulp. The raw material consists of three main components i.e. fiber, lignin, and bark. Paper is made with fiber therefore the goal is to separate fiber from lignin and bark. This process is called pulping. The pulp can be made through mechanical pulping or chemical pulping.

Treatment of pulp in the paper machine:

The pulp is then treated in a paper machine/mill to make paper sheets of the required density. It is treated in four sections of the paper machine. Basically, the fiber is taken from the pulp, pressed, dried, and then made smooth. The final product that comes out of the paper machine is paper. The natural color of paper is brown. However, for regular white paper and colored paper bleaching agents and colors are added to achieve the desired color of the paper.  The finished paper is reeled and then cut into desired sizes.

The density of paper can be increased to make paper cards. The quality of the paper card can be increased or decreased as per the requirements of the clients.

It is pertinent to mention here that the raw material for paper production i.e. wood comes through deforestation. So, we can say that the birth of paper cards starts with deforestation.

Now you know how paper and paper cards are made. Let me tell you how paper and paper cards are used.


Experience: How a paper card is being used?


From paper mills, the paper is sent to markets or different facilities where paper products are made. A range of paper cards is available in the market. One of the most widely used paper products is food packaging. Out of the 68 million metric tons of paper produced in the USA, packaging papers (single-use paper) and paper boards account for 51 million metric tons. And what about paper cards? Paper cards are made by increasing the density of paper in the paper mill and then cutting in the desired sizes. There are numerous uses of paper cards in all wakes of life. The following are some of the important use cases of paper cards.

  • Paper Business cards:

A business card is meant for the introduction of a person or business. It contains important information about you or your business. These paper business cards are the most effective way to build relationships with others.

  • Gift cards:

Paper cards are also used in the making of gift cards. These gift cards are exchanged by people with their friends, family members, and loved ones. The demand for gift cards rises on occasions like Christmas, Happy New Year, friendship day, Valentine’s Day and etc.

  • Hotel key cards:

In most hotels, key cards are made up of plastic. However, with new regulations hotels are moving towards paper cards. Hotel keys are now being made with paper.

  • Invitation cards:

Moderate size paper cards are used to make invitation cards. These invitation cards are sent to invite your friends, family members, and honored guests to a special occasion.

Some of the frequent use cases are as follows.

  • For making crafts
  • Book cover cards
  • Library catalog
  • Playing cards
  • Thank you cards
  • Postcards
  • Luggage cards
  • Labels for products
  • Loyalty cards
  • Greeting cards

The above-mentioned card types are made with recycled materials or virgin materials.

So this is all about the use cases of paper cards. During the usage of paper and paper cards, environmental impacts are zero to known. The real game starts when a paper or paper card is dead and thrown into the waste. Let’s see what happens to the paper after its death.


Death: What happens after a paper card is dead?


The death of a paper and paper card starts when it is used and thrown away. The following three things can happen to paper after it is discarded.

  • It will be dumped into the landfills with other waste materials. The natural decomposition period for paper varies from paper to paper. It depends upon the quality and density of the paper. However, the average decomposition time for paper is in between 2 to 6 weeks.
  • Recycling: Paper and paper cards can be recycled 7 times. Therefore, the already used or discarded paper will be recycled to make fresh paper and paper cards.
  • The last option for the dead paper is burning.


Only recycling is sustainable for the environment. While incineration and dumping paper in the landfills is harmful to the environment as both produce greenhouse gases. The burning produces carbon dioxides, carbon monoxide, and other gases. Similarly, the decomposition of paper in landfills emits methane gas. The following section discusses the environmental impacts of paper cards and their comparison with plastic cards.


Why you should neither use paper cards nor plastic cards?


The demand for paper and paper cards is increasing day by day. 420 million metric tons of paper and cardboard were produced last year globally. As described earlier, businesses are giving preference to paper over plastic. This shift is unsustainable due to the following negative environmental impacts.

  • Deforestation:

The production of paper results in deforestation to obtain raw materials. According to estimates of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 420 million hectares of land have been deforested by human beings for their needs. Global warming is the most crucial environmental impact caused by deforestation. While on the other hand, PVC is produced with byproducts of fossil fuels that have already been extracted for some other purposes.

  • Carbon footprint:

The carbon footprint for the production of paper and cards is more than that of PVC and PVC cards. According to research conducted by the University of Exeter, the carbon dioxide emissions are 200g for 10g paper cards made with virgin materials. This means that the carbon footprint for 1 kg of the paper card is 20KG CO2. While on the other hand, the carbon footprint for the production of 1 Kg PVC cards is 2.4-2.9Kg CO2.

  • Water footprint:

The Paper industry is one of the leading industries in consuming freshwater.  Paper production requires a huge amount of water. You can imagine how much water is being used by this industry through the fact that 1 sheet of A4 size paper requires 10 liters of freshwater for its production. While the water footprint for the production of 1 kg PVC is 77-85 liters.

  • Pollution:

The production of both i.e. paper and plastic results in environmental pollution. However, pollution due to paper is less than that of PVC. This is because the paper is decomposed in the natural environment in 2-6 weeks. While plastic stays for hundreds of years in landfills, contaminating the natural resources and environment.

  • Lifespan:

The lifetime of a paper card is much shorter than that of a plastic card. While the demand for paper is increasing day by day, which means more consumption of natural resources and deforestation.

The above-mentioned environmental impacts of paper and Plastic suggests that we should not use any of these materials. One causes deforestation and global warming while the other causes air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution. Therefore, both paper and plastic cards must be abandoned.

So what is the best solution that is sustainable and eco-friendly?

All in one solution is BioPaper material. The BioPaper, a revolutionary material, is developed by the researchers of Nexqo. It has the same properties as Plastic but it consumes fewer amounts of natural resources. It is made with calcium carbonate, a natural resource readily available in the environment. It addresses all of the environmental concerns associated with plastic and paper.




So it is a myth that paper cards are more eco-friendly than plastic cards. In fact, the ever-increasing demand for paper is negatively impacting the environment and biodiversity.  Therefore, businesses and individuals should not use single-use paper products i.e. paper cards, paper bags, paper food packaging and etc. The same treatment should be given to single-use plastics. Furthermore, the card manufacturers and patrons of the card industry should give a try to BioPaper cards which are less resource-intensive, 100% safe and eco-friendly. To know more about BioPaper, feel free to contact us.


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