Lately, just about every printing industry-related article includes at least one reference to environmental protection. The terms “green,” “eco-friendly” and “sustainability” already seem overused and slightly annoying. At the same time, these are major issues with tremendous economic implications for the printing industry, and they—and the language used to discuss them—cannot be ignored.
Regarding raw materials, paper, both its manufacturing and usage, has arguably the most serious ramifications for the green movement. As a result, this year’s paper report focuses on recycled paper stocks and other alternatives, with paper experts addressing issues such as availability, content, pricing and performance.
Supply and Demand
Six years ago, anxiety over insufficient capacity was preventing many major purchasers from entering the recycled paper market. Large purchases, it was feared, could max out the available paper supply, deplete recovered paper sources and drive up prices.
Victoria Mills, project manager for Boston-based Alliance for Environmental Innovation, contributed to a report appearing in the Feb. 2002 edition of Resource Recycling titled “Recycled Paper: Plenty available, now let’s all use it.” Mills and co-authors Gerard Gleason and Susan Kinsella asserted that, despite mill closures, significant industry capacity exists to support large and rapid increases in the use of recycled printing and writing papers. Furthermore, broad and lasting customer acceptance will follow as end-users discover recycled paper performs just as well as virgin paper—and at comparable prices.
(Virgin Paper comes directly from trees and contains the strongest and purest fiber. Its first-generation status means virgin paper has not undergone prior printing. The reusable fiber content found in recycled paper may include pre-consumer waste, post consumer waste, totally recycled fiber or various blends of each.)
In discussing the status of recycled paper in the marketplace today, Mills again noted recycled paper options are frequently available at competitive prices. “The exact price compared to virgin paper will, of course, depend on the grade of paper, but with some grades, recycled options are routinely available at price parity.” She went on to say that Kinsella’s company, San Francisco-based Conservatree, provides a listing service on its website (www.conservatree.com) where visitors can review all the different brands and paper grades featuring recycled content. “For instance, you can look up coated, uncoated, office paper, box board, even tissue—it’s a vast resource for purchasers,” she added.
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