Myths about the sustainability of paper abound. Let’s bust some of the more common myths with some verified facts.
South Africa’s forests are shrinking.
Our forests are actually growing in size!
Paper is a uniquely-renewable and sustainable product and the main raw material (trees) are grown and harvested in a carefully controlled and sustainable way.
Planted forests are bad for the environment.
Well-managed planted forests reduce the pressure on natural forests and can provide many other environmental benefits.
Forests are essential for the transition to the green economy – and well-managed planted forests are a vital element in the global forestry mix.
Paper is bad for the environment.
Paper is actually one of the few truly sustainable products.
Paper is made from wood, which is a natural and renewable material. As young trees grow they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and paper also continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime.
Paper production is a major greenhouse gas emitter.
Most of the energy used is renewable and carbon intensity is surprisingly low.
The pulp and paper industry produces original bio-based products using wood, which is a renewable material. It has the experience, technology and supply chain to play a big part in the bio-economy in a resource-efficient manner.
Only recycled paper should be used.
Virgin fibres from sustainably-managed forests are needed to maintain the paper cycle.
Without new fibres from new trees, the paper cycle cannot be maintained. Recycled fibres degrade after several uses and the paper industry needs fresh fibre from responsibly-managed forests to keep the renewable cycle going.
Paper is a wasteful product.
Paper is actually one of the most recycled products in the world.
The paper industry is a leading recycler and, with collecting systems improving, will increase its recycling rates even further. However, some paper products cannot be recovered for recycling as they’re kept for long periods of time (books) or archived (records), while others are destroyed or contaminated when used (eg, tissue paper).
E-communication is better for the environment.
Electronic communication also has environmental impacts that need to be considered.
Many organisations are encouraging their customers to switch to electronic transactions and communications in order to “save the planet”. This messaging gives the impression that electronic communication is more environmentally-friendly than its traditional counterpart, but it’s necessary to consider the full lifetime of the two. Paper is a uniquely renewable and sustainable product – and the environmental impact (greenhouse gas emissions) of our ever-increasing digital world cannot be ignored.
Digital is the preferred communication for all.
A lot of consumers still value paper-based communication.
Companies are increasingly going online or adding charges if customers wish to receive paper-based communication. But switching to digital is not always welcome and customers should be able to receive paper-based communications without penalties or difficulty. It’s often the most vulnerable members of society that depend on traditional paper-based mail and the move to online-only risks a disconnect.
Producing paper uses an excessive amount of water.
Paper production is dependent on water, yet relatively little is consumed.
The pulp and paper industry depends on water in three crucial areas: rain water that is essential for trees to grow; water that’s used to make pulp and paper; and suitably-treated effluent. As water is a crucial resource for the industry, most pulp and paper mills are located near to abundant supplies. It is also important to recognise that intake does not equal consumption, because most of the water is returned to the environment.