Last week, the owner of the 131-year-old paper mill in Luke, Md. announced its closing as of June 30. Six-hundred-and-seventy-five people will lose their jobs, and consider how far-reaching the implications: Families of those workers; businesses that cater to those workers; businesses that offer services to the mill; the loss of tax revenue to local governments. Luke is a small town. The mill closing could be cataclysmic.
Folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but YOU caused this. How many of you have a “please save a tree and don’t print this email” in your online signature? Have you cut back on buying paper products to “save the environment”? Do you read newspapers and magazines on your computer rather than get print subscriptions? Yea, that’s what I thought.
If so, your actions — to stop using one of the world’s most easily recycled materials, have ultimately led to results like these 675 hard-working fellow Marylanders losing their jobs.
When people en masse cut back substantially on a particular product in the marketplace, manufacturers eventually catch up and slow, or even stop, production of items that are no longer in demand. This explains what happened here.
Consider the humble plastic straw for a moment. Until some third-grader made up a report about the world’s oceans being clogged with iceberg-sized mounds of used plastic straws, everyone was happily sucking away. Now, all of a sudden everyone wants — wait for it – paper straws. Guess what? No one is making much paper anymore, and the paper that is being made ain’t being used to make straws. So, rather than paper straws being readily available to immediately be rolled to this newly-created market, there is a long lag time and much higher price for those straws than otherwise would have been the case, had people not gone off the deep end and demanded legislation banning plastic straws, even making the offering of plastic straws a criminal offense.
And now paper is all of a sudden good? Desired? In demand? Does anyone else see the hypocrisy here?
I am a printer, with a vested interest in seeing a thriving, active and competitive paper-manufacturing market. I believe in paper. In ink on paper. In ideas on paper. I believe that paper is an environmentally-friendly product. I believe the more trees used to produce paper, the more manufacturers of paper will plant more trees to fulfill their demand. The US has more trees now than it did 100 years ago. Who do you think is going to plant these trees if people aren’t buying paper? Hint: not the paper mills. Please think about longer-term implications than following what is “trending” before chugging the Koolaid; consider the consequences of your actions further down the supply chain. I shudder to think what would happen if everyone stopped using plastic and plastic manufacturers stopped making it. Look around you and see what is made with plastic and what could possibly substitute for it. Unless you are looking to go back to colonial times, be careful what you wish for, you might actually get it.