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E-book vs. paper: which reading medium is better for the environment?

Blame it on the digital age or the Covid lockdown years, but the way we read has changed. We are increasingly consuming books digitally, with some of us adopting ereaders instead of buying printed books. This change in behavior could be considered better for the planet – after all, no trees are destroyed to create these books.

That’s not the only reason to read ebooks. Did you know that approximately 26% of global waste is paper and cardboard? It’s clear that we’re not all recycling as much as we should. British waste management company Business Waste has some interesting statistics on how much paper we throw away, and doesn’t even take into account all the paperbacks and textbooks we might throw away. Sure, paper decomposes, but that takes two to six weeks and the ink can poison our soil and groundwater.

On the other hand, the production of an electronic device is likely to have a larger carbon footprint. According to a 2010 New York Times report, a single e-reader requires approximately 70 pounds of minerals and 20 gallons of water to make, and has a limited lifespan.

The Kobo Clara 2E ereader is held.

(Image credit: Future)

Maintaining digital reading