Addressing a Myth: Making Paper is Bad for the Environment

Addressing a Myth: Making Paper is Bad for the Environment

January 06, 2016

The Myth: Making paper is bad for the environment.

The Fact: Paper is one of the few truly sustainable products.

Paper is made from a natural resource that is renewable, recyclable and compostable. These features, combined with the U.S. paper industry’s advocacy of responsible forestry practices and certification, use of renewable, carbon-neutral biofuels and advances in efficient papermaking technology, make paper one of the most sustainable products on earth.

Benefits of Using Paper and Miscellaneous Facts:

  • Paper has been an integral part of our cultural development and is essential for modern life. Paper helps to increase levels of literacy and democracy worldwide and
    plays an important role in protecting goods and foodstuffs during transit. Paper is made from renewable resources, and responsibly produced and used paper has many advantages over other, nonrenewable alternative materials.
  • Paper is recyclable and in the United States, paper is recycled more than any other commodity in the municipal solid waste stream, including plastics, glass and metals.
    The benefits of paper recycling include: extending the supply of wood fiber; reducing greenhouse gas emissions that can contribute to climate change by avoiding methane emissions (which are released when paper decomposes in landfills or is incinerated); contributing to carbon sequestration ; reducing the amount of energy needed to
    produce some paper products; and savings considerable landfill space.
  • Because forest products [including paper] can require little or no fossil fuels for production and store carbon throughout their useful life, they can have inherent climate
    change advantages over all other materials with which they compete, provided they are produced in a sustainable manner.
  • The biomass emissions from papermaking are part of the natural carbon balance and do not add to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, unlike emissions
    from fossil fuel. The forests that provide that biomass support key climate change mitigation technologies and practices currently commercially available including,
    afforestation; reforestation; forest management; reduced deforestation; harvested wood product management; use of forestry products for bioenergy to replace
    fossil fuel use; tree species improvement to increase biomass productivity and carbon sequestration; improved remote sensing technologies for analysis of vegetation/soil
    carbon sequestration potential and mapping land-use change.
  • The forest products industry is a leader in the production of renewable energy, with more than 65% of the on-site energy needed to produce paper products derived
    from carbon-neutral biomass. . Since 1990, U.S. pulp and paper mill purchased energy [from fossil fuels] use per ton of production has been reduced by 25.3% and
    14.5% since 2000.
  • The forest products industry is the largest producer of renewable biomass energy in the United States, generating 77% of the nation’s industrial biomass energy.
    Additionally, the renewable energy generated by the forest products industry exceeds all of the nation’s solar, wind and geothermal energy generation combined.
  • The print and paper industry accounts for only 1.1% of global carbon dioxide emissions.


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