Ed #13 Balance

Where to start?

How about with the paper the job is printed on? Everyone in the paper industry is proud to say that paper is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. But many inside and outside the industry are also quick to point out that paper uses trees.

While it’s made of a number of fibers, including hemp, sugar cane, kenaf and, of course, recycled paper fibers, the vast majority of the world’s paper is made from trees. This is because trees contain more of the key ingredient, cellulose fiber, than most other sources.

4,000,000 trees are planted daily in the U.S.

But, for trees, the picture is not as bad as it may seem. In most of Europe and North America, paper manufacturers have long replaced the trees they harvested. And for every tree that is harvested in a managed forest, several more are planted or generated naturally. According to the USDA Forest Service, about 4 million trees are planted daily in the United States, 1.7 million of that total by the wood and paper industries1, and the total acreage of forest land remains stable.

57% of paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2008.

What’s more, paper is one of the most recycled products used in the United States. The total recovery rate for all paper in the United States was more than 57 percent, about 340 pounds per capita, and 38 percent of the fiber used in the U.S. for paper production comes from recovered sources. That’s good, because compared to using 100 percent virgin fiber, paper made with 30 percent recovered fiber requires 10 percent less energy to manufacture. It also produces 25 percent less wastewater and 6 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. And each ton of 30 percent recycled paper conserves about 15 trees.2

Of course, not all paper is created equal. Much of the paper produced in eastern Europe, South America and Asia continues to be made from old-growth or primary forests that are not logged using sustainable practices. The result is deforestation, which results in loss of animal habitat, soil erosion and a number of other problems. To be truly sustainable, forestry practices must protect forest ecosystems and local peoples. Logging practices should minimize erosion and preserve animal habitats. Herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers should be used sparingly, if at all, and no fiber should come from areas that have high conservation value, unless harvesting is done in a way that protects that value.

1 Sustainable Forestry Initiative® Program
2 Environmental Defense Paper Calculator

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