Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Myths Surrounding Paper - what is the most sustainable solution?

Paper has been around for almost 2000 years, and during this time it has undoubtedly established itself as the most effective and versatile means of communication.

Even in today’s digital age with the availability of alternative media, paper’s unique practical and aesthetic qualities simply can’t be achieved by using electronic alternatives. That’s not to say that one is less suitable than the other. Both paper-based & electronic communication have a role to play and can compliment each other.

In recent years, however, paper has been the target of negative and often misinformed environmental criticism. Listening to some people, its benefits are outweighed by the mass of misleading environmental disadvantages; shrinking forests, excessive energy consumption, and overflowing landfill sites. So as far as the environment is concerned, paper appears bad.

While paper does use trees, its production does consume energy and too often, waste paper ends up in landfill sites, it is also one of the few truly renewable and recyclable raw materials we have.

A few facts about paper:

• Paper production is not a major cause of deforestation

• Industrial wood, pulp and paper production saves forests

• Paper is a fully renewable, sustainable resource

• For every tree logged in managed forests, 3–4 are replanted

• Forest certification promotes wood from managed forests

• We plant more trees than we harvest for making paper

• The paper industry is one of the biggest users of renewable, low carbon energy

• Half the energy used to make paper in Europe comes from renewable sources

• Very often, the water used to make paper is cleaner when it comes out of the mill than when it goes in

• Growing forests absorb carbon dioxide helping to counter the Greenhouse Effect

What others are saying:
‘Forestry, paper and packaging are among the most sustainable industries in existence’
CEO Perspectives 2008, Price Waterhouse Coopers

‘Almost half of the timber harvested from the world’s forests is used to make paper products, so the paper industry has a huge opportunity to make sure that those forests are responsibly managed and will be here for generations to come’ In managed forests, for every tree cut down, three to four are replanted in its place. It’s estimated that there are 25% more trees in the developed world today than there were in 1901.
Forest Stewardship Council

‘A sustainably managed forest can be relatively carbon neutral if logging is balanced with re-growth’
The Sustainable Procurement of wood & Paper products: An introduction. www.sustainableforestprods.org

‘Reading a newspaper can consume 20% less carbon than viewing news online’
Swedish Royal Institute for Technology

'The paper industry has eight representatives in the UN’s list of the world’s 100 most sustainable companies, more than any other industry’
Promotion of Paper
Australian Paper Industry Association, 2008

'When people use more paper, suppliers plant more trees. If we want bigger commercial forests, then we should use more paper not less. Our policies should directly protect important wildlife habitats, not try to reduce our demand for paper.’
Edward L. Glaeser,
Professor of Economics at Harvard University
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company

'There aren't many industries around that can aspire to becoming genuinely sustainable. The paper industry, however, is one of them; it s inherently sustainable.'
Jonathon Porritt, Chairman UK Sustainability Development Commission & Founder Forum for the Future