When I assumed my current role with Sappi our leadership made it clear from day one that we would not shy away from tackling tough issues. We made a commitment that our sustainability communications would be grounded in facts and science – and the tagline of “proof versus empty promises” from our first eQ Journal remains my mantra.
While society as a whole continues to make great strides in thinking more holistically – considering environmental and social impacts of products from material acquisition through disposal – there remain huge gaps in understanding on some basic issues. When it comes to paper, the myths and facts about the use of recycled content are still being debated.
A common myth: using recycled fiber is always better for the environment.
The facts: it depends on the product and the mill of manufacture.
Paper is simply not one thing – paper products are used in a wide variety of common applications like tissue, packaging and communication papers. And there are a host of specialty applications ranging from building materials (eg. insulation, counter tops and flooring) to automotive applications (like gaskets and brake liners). Different types of paper products require different types of pulp fibers to produce them - and in some cases, using recycled fiber simply doesn’t make sense – environmentally or economically.
I often ask people to pause and consider the differences between an egg carton and a premium printing grade like Somerset web. Egg cartons are often made of recycled newsprint; mottled grey in appearance because the paper didn’t have to be deinked. For our use, post consumer waste must be deinked, bleached and cleaned to remove any type of contaminant. Intuitively, many people can see that given a choice – it makes more sense to use recovered paper in applications that require less treatment and creates less waste.
To help further quantify the overall impacts, we embarked on a cradle-to-gate analysis of greenhouse gas emissions for our mills. This type of analysis is complex and it literally took us years of work to select a modeling tool, learn the tool, and then build a model for our operations.
The results are clear: adding recycled fiber to products made at our Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, ME actually increased the carbon footprint of those products. Specifically, adding 10% recycled content raises the carbon footprint by 16% over the same product made with virgin fiber.
For a detailed look at our LCA journey, readers can download copies of our whitepaper series. We have completed three issues on the Life Cycle Assessment of Paper Products as follows:
Volume 4.1 Part One - The Basics
Volume 4.2 Part Two - The Impact of Methodology on the Life Cycle Analysis of Paper Products
Volume 4.3Part Three - The Carbon Footprint of Sappi’s Somerset Mill and the Impact of Recycled Fiber
Rest assured: we are strong advocates for recycling outreach and education. All of Sappi’s coated fine papers are recyclable and we always encourage the use of “please recycle” logos and claims on printed pieces. As individuals, we all have opportunities to recycle more paper. Once paper is recovered, the key is to put that fiber to best use.
As quoted by CNN reporters Kathleen Toner and Erika Clarke.
Sappi has been a sponsor of Living Lands and Waters since 2007.
If you are Chad Pregracke – the answer is simple – you live your dream. And it helps if you are the Hardest Working DoGooder in America.
As a corporate sponsor since 2007, we’re very proud to announce that Chad Pregracke, Living Lands & Waters’ Founder and President, has been selected as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2013! For their extraordinary efforts to change the world, each of the nominees will receive $50,000 and be recognized at “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” a globally broadcast event that airs December 1.
One of the top 10 will receive an additional $250,000 for their cause if the public chooses them as the CNN Hero of the Year.
Just imagine the good work that Chad and his team could do with $250,000. Let’s help him clean up our rivers, plant more trees and reach more students and teachers with his powerful message.
How can you help?
This part is easy. Vote. Vote now.
Cast your vote for Chad at CNNHeroes.com
And vote tomorrow. Vote every day from now through November 17 using your email address and/or via Facebook.
The winner will be revealed during the tribute show, which will be hosted by Anderson Cooper at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on Sunday, December 1, 2013, at 7pm CST on CNN.
From the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Issue of Recycling Today Magazine (July 2013)
Click here to see the full article written by editor Brian Taylor
Recently, two separate state laws were passed to support recycling programs for paint and mattresses. These types of laws are known generally as extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation, wherein manufacturers are required to pay fees to support recovery and recycling efforts for their products. To date, the laws have focused on products that are hazardous or have low recycling rates (e.g. batteries, mercury switches, fluorescent lamps).
At first, I was somewhat surprised to see Maine joining six other states to enact this type of law for paint. As a taxpaying resident of Portland, Maine I am allowed to drop up to 10 gallons per year of oil or enamel paint at my local recycling facility – at no charge. For latex paint, there is clear guidance on how to solidify and dispose of leftovers. A quick search revealed several other options within driving distance, most of which are free for local residents. And there are many additional facilities in Maine where consumers (including non-residents) can pay for proper disposal of paint.
In looking at the evolution of EPR it becomes clear that the driving force for the change is not just to provide access for recovery. Rather the primary incentive is to shift the cost burden from municipalities to the producer. And what will producers do? Most likely they will pass the cost along to consumers. In fact a paint law in Connecticut has resulted in a $0.75 per gallon fee for consumers. I do anticipate that paint disposal will become more accessible if every store that sells paint must also take it back, however it remains to be seen as to whether this is a cost effective solution.
Meanwhile people are studying two programs in Canada (Ontario and British Columbia) that have used this type of legislation to cover commonly recycled materials including packaging and printed materials. And there are efforts underway to look at similar legislation in the US. Our trade association is monitoring the development of these laws closely in an effort to understand how this may affect the pulp and paper industry. It is arguable that we simply don’t need EPR for paper products. The recovery rate for paper has exceeded 60% since 2009. And nearly 70% of US households have access to paper recycling facilities (either curbside or drop off).
Of course, a strong recovery rate alone doesn’t prevent a municipality from looking for ways to cut costs of recycling programs. But, for paper, municipalities should be reaping benefits as the markets for recovered paper are very strong. In fact paper markets are so competitive that roughly 40% of recovered paper is exported to meet the high demands of overseas customers.
There are still paper products destined for landfills and much effort underway to identify and expand solutions for “hard to recycle” products such as wax coated board or soiled paper (like napkins or food contaminated packing). There are a host of alternatives to recycling, including composting programs and waste-to-energy solutions. The key is to maximize recycling where possible and continue to develop a portfolio of solutions for other products or hard to reach locations.
As individuals it behooves us all to understand these issues so that we don’t see costs simply shift from our taxes to potentially end up as inflated fees levied at the store shelves. For commonly recycled materials like paper and paperboard, I believe we are best suited to rely on the market based programs that exist. Collectively we need to continue to find the best means for keeping other paper based products out of landfills. We can do better.