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Stopping the Paper Flood

THERE'S nothing like leading by example. One instance of such leadership is an executive order from the office of President Clinton on paper recycling. It is expected to rekindle interest in this particular environmental activity.

Many communities and businesses across the United States have joined the recycling movement, with modest success. But anyone who takes household refuse to the local landfill knows that the recycling initiative - of cans, glass, and plastics as well as paper - has lost much of its momentum.

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Bundling newsprint and other fiber products and putting them into bins involves little strain or muss, and it induces a satisfying feeling of having done one's bit for beauty, economy, and public health.

The problem comes when the amount of accumulated waste paper, including newsprint, overwhelms industry's needs. That now seems to be the case in many US communities.

Many a conscientious householder has lugged his or her paper to the recycling center only to face trailer trucks standing full. Those in charge ruefully explain that the market for their waste paper is glutted; the demand for the recycled product is next to nothing.

The president has signed an executive order that requires federal offices (including the military) to be using, by the end of of 1994, paper made from no less than 20 percent recycled fiber. The figure rises to 30 percent by the end of 1998.

Meaningful results from this drive will be enhanced if millions of Americans join the president in refusing to be overwhelmed by refuse; they can do so by cooperating with their city and county governments in the nationwide effort.

New York City, for example, pays a 10 percent premium for paper with 10 percent recycled content. Many municipalities are making the effort to recycle more. But more people and organizations must get involved. After all, who wants to wind up on a trash heap?

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