The Environmental Paper Network, Asheville, N.C., a diverse group supporting socially and environmentally sustainable transformations within the pulp and paper industry, recently released its “State of the Paper Industry Report,” addressing fiber sourcing, recycling, consumption, paper production and the paper industry’s impact on communities and the climate.
“This report is a comprehensive environmental review of an industry that continues to be one of our planet’s most significant environmental challenges,” said Joshua Martin, Environmental Paper Network coordinator. “The good news is, a shift within the paper industry has begun, and corporate leaders are emerging across every sector to embrace new tools for responsible choices, responsible production and major climate, health and forest benefits.”
There is still work to be done, however, as the study reveals:
• The paper industry is the fourth largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among U.S. manufacturing industries.
• Paper accounts for 25 percent of landfill waste—the largest of any single component.
• Paper production accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s industrial wood harvest, and is among the largest consumers and polluters of fresh water.
• Paper production continues to come into conflict with indigenous and other communities around the world, over land rights, culture, human health and livelihoods.
The report details how the industry is starting to respond, but there is critical need for improvement across the board. For instance, while companies are increasingly embracing chain-of-custody certification, unsustainable forestry practices still prevail. Recycled paper usage is increasing, but improvements in paper recovery and investments in infrastructure are needed. Companies are getting savvier about reducing paper use, but heavy paper-consuming sectors continue to drastically over-consume. And, though there is emphasis on reducing chlorine bleach and toxic emissions, the paper industry overall has not embraced the best practices.
Finally, some first nations and progressive paper companies are working together, however, exploitation of native people around the world continues at a dizzying pace.
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