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Truth in Paper


For the past 2000 years, paper has established itself as an incredibly effective and versatile means of communication. Despite computers, cell phones, the internet and other electronic devices, paper has demonstrated its value time and time again. Paper is portable, secure, consistent and permanent.But perhaps most of all – paper is extremely effective.

Recently, however, paper has been the target of negative and often misinformed environmental criticism, and therefore its benefits are sometimes overshadowed by misleading environmental claims — those of deforestation, excessive energy consumption, and crowded landfill sites.Today’s paper comes from a renewable resource, is recyclable and even responsible. Domtar has a good story to tell about environmental responsibility in the industry for North America.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative®
Program 2,4 Forest Products Association of Canada
3 FAO of The United Nations

MYTH: Making paper destroys forests.
FACT: No, in fact the opposite is true.

Paper is made from cellulose fiber, which generally comes from trees, but this doesn’t automatically equate to the destruction of forests. Companies like Domtar source their primary raw material from the forest, therefore it is in their best interest to ensure sustainability for the company’s long-term survival.The concept of managed forests means that for every tree harvested, several more are planted or naturally regenerated in their place. In fact, according to the USDA Forest Service, four million trees are planted every day in the United States. Of this amount, the wood and paper products industry plants on average 1.7 million trees daily.

  1. Excluding millions of additional seedlings regenerated naturally.In Canada, natural regeneration is supplemented by the planting of 600 million seedlings per year.
  2. Increasing demand for forest products has provided powerful incentive for private landowners to reforest their harvest. According to The State of America’s Forests, a report released by the Society of American Foresters, replanting and reforestation efforts have helped keep forestland stable.There are nearly 750 million acres of forests in the U.S. —about the same as 100 years ago. Annual net growth of U.S. forests is 36 percent higher than the volume of annual tree removals.Total forest cover in the U.S. and Canada basically remained the same from 1990 to 2005.
  3. Furthermore, less than one half of one percent of Canada’s forestland is harvested annually.
  4. Sustainable forests are also carefully managed to help prevent catastrophic damage from fires, disease and insects.It is also important to remember that the majority of the forest provides non- paper products. Lumber is used for building houses and furniture, while tree-based chemicals are used in products such as turpentine, chewing gum and toothpaste. In addition, a well-managed forest provides many recreational opportunities such as hiking, hunting, camping, fishing and bird watching.
  5. “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

    MYTH: Paper is bad for the environment.
    FACT: No, paper is one of the few truly sustainable products.

    For every tree that is harvested in a managed forest, several more are replanted or naturally regenerated. And as young trees grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Furthermore, as a wood-based product, paper also continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime. There are a number of credible and independent certification systems ensuring that paper certified under them comes from a responsibly managed forest source. All Domtar’s harvested forests and facilities are certified under either the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI) or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Certification of sustainable forest management continues to increase every year. The three major U.S. certification systems (SFI, FSC and American Tree Farm System) together certify more than 107 million acres, representing 14 percent of total U.S. forests. Some 25 percent of private U.S. forestland is now certified.

  6. Sustainable forest management is contributing to carbon sequestration and storage. In the United States, the total carbon sequestered by forests and the creation of wood products during the 1990s reached almost 200 megatons per year – around 10 percent of U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
  7. Planting new trees can significantly help to combat global warming. For every ton of wood a forest produces, it removes 1.47 tons of CO2 from the air and replaces it with 1.07 tons of oxygen.
  8. Paper is a responsible choice because it comes from a renewable resource and is the product of sunlight, soil, nutrients and water. in addition, paper is recyclable and biodegradable.

    MYTH: Making paper consumes A LOT OF ENERGY AND FOSSIL FUELS.

    Making paper the first time around does require a lot of energy, as is the case with other transformation industries, such as making aluminum from bauxite, or steel from iron ore. However, over the past several decades, the pulp and paper industry has made an impressive commitment to fuel efficiency and independence. Companies have invested significantly in their infrastructures in order to increase their efficiency and replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources, such as spent cooking liquor from its pulping processes and biomass (bark and other wood wastes). This effort has helped to reduce significantly non-renewable resources while reducing harmful emissions.

    In fact, the forest products industry leads all other manufacturing sectors in onsite electricity generation, meeting more than half of its own energy needs. At many mills, self-generated electricity goes beyond serving onsite production needs by providing supplemental electricity to the surrounding electric power grid.

  9. In 2008, Domtar used an average of 77% renewable energy at its mill operations. By making paper using more renewable energy and increasing their energy efficiency, Domtar’s mills continue to reduce their carbon footprint. At the same time, the carbon footprint associated with information and communication technologies is quickly growing. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company projects that computers, data centers, mobile phones and telecommunication networks could be among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases by 2020. Going “paperless” does come with a cost.

    MYTH: Paper has a high carbon footprint.
    FACT: It’s not as high as you think!

  10. A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact that human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere that have arisen through the manufacture and distribution of a product or service. Burning fossil fuels, such as natural gas, oil and coal, is a major source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The pulp and paper industry largely utilizes renewable energy sources that are considered carbon neutral to generate steam and electricity.This means that the CO2 emitted from their combustion is organic in origin, and as such, is viewed as neutral in terms of climate change contribution.
    Sustainably managed forests are approximately carbon neutral. They form a mosaic across the landscape in which the growth of trees over a large area will compensate for the carbon lost through annual logging of a much smaller area.
  11. Since 2002, Domtar has reduced total direct GHG emissions 21.6%, or 663,900 tons. This is the equivalent of taking 133,000 cars off the road. As part of the
    company’s commitment to sustainable practices and continuous improvement, Domtar joined the Chicago Climate Exchange® (CCX), the only active voluntary, legally-binding cap-and-trade system in North America aimed at the registry and reduction of GHG emissions, with offset projects worldwide.

    “In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.”
    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

    MYTH: Recycled paper is always better for the environment than virgin paper.
    FACT: Not necessarily.

    Virgin fiber harvested using recognized third-party certified sustainable forestry practices is as environmentally sound as the use of recycled fiber. While recycled paper does reduce waste paper going to landfill, paper’s full life cycle must be considered – not just the fiber source. Domtar favors the use of Life Cycle Management concepts to determine where and when it is appropriate to use recycled fiber in the papermaking process. Recent peer-reviewed Life Cycle Management studies have demonstrated that the environmental benefits of recycled fiber in the production of business papers can vary greatly depending on the source of the paper
    being recycled, its prior destination (landfill or another use), and the facility where it is being recycled into new paper (trucking distances and the facilities’ impact on climate change).

    There are intrinsic limitations to the use of recycled fiber that make the need for virgin fiber inevitable. These include the loss of yield and strength during the re-pulping and de-inking processes, as well as increased yield loss as the fiber is recycled again and again. Generally, fiber can be recycled no more than five to seven times.

    Domtar supports the collection and use of recycled fiber, especially in the case of certain ideally-suited paper applications, such as single use products (e.g. tissue), short-lived products (e.g. newsprint) or products that do not require high optical surface quality (e.g. containerboard, wallboard, etc.) Not all categories of paper can be recycled for use in printing and writing grades.
    Both recycled and virgin fiber have their purpose and justification. The paper industry can use all of the recycled fiber available. But the recycled paper industry depends on virgin fiber. We’re all part of the same cycle.

    MYTH: Paper contributes significantly to landfill.

    Thanks to industry leadership and the tireless efforts of the millions of Americans who recycle paper at home, work, and school every day, paper recovery has reached record levels. In 2008, over 57 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling. This impressive figure equals nearly 340 pounds for each man, woman, and child in America.

  12. Since 1990, when the paper industry established its first recovery goal to advance recycling in the United States, paper recovery has grown by more than 85 percent.
  13. Comparatively, the recovery rate for metal is 36 percent; glass is 22 percent; and plastic is only 7 percent.
  14. The paper industry has set an aggressive new goal to recover 60 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. by 2012. This represents a tremendous increase in recovery, as each percentage point represents nearly one million additional tons of recovered paper – enough to fill more than 14,000 railroad cars.
  15. With $2 billion in investments since 1989, Canada’s paper industry now recycles nearly three times as much as it did a decade ago, representing 58 percent of the paper consumed.
  16. The NAPM (National Association of Paper Merchants) has launched an industry-wide initiative in the United Kingdom known as “Two-Sides” to dispel common environmental misconceptions surrounding print and paper while encouraging its responsible use. From Europe to North America, these issues are relevant to all of us that use paper daily to communicate with one another, transact business, express ourselves and confirm information. These paper myths and facts have been adapted from their materials. For more information about the initiative, please visit

10,11,13 American Forest & Paper Association
12 Environmental Protection Agency
14 Forest Products Association of Canada

Contact Green Earth Enterprise

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