Paper - fiction and facts

Paper was invented 1,900 years ago and today it is an integral part of our daily life: as a print medium to communicate information and knowledge, as a packing material, for daily hygiene, or as a special material for a variety of applications, from banknotes to medical filters.

As with all production activities, papermaking uses resources. Unlike other materials, however, paper has major environmental advantages. It is made from wood, a renewable raw material, and is a prime example of successful recycling.

Environmental issues are a source of numerous misconceptions and untruths, which we should like to address. Click on the topics on the left for further information.

1 PAPER does not kill forests

Fiction 1

The paper industry destroys forests

Fact is

  • The paper industry does not destroy forests.

  • The paper industry is not responsible for the depletion of tropical forests.

  • The paper industry supports sustainable forest management.

Bread from grain, milk from cows, paper from wood - all renewable raw materials. Around 20 per cent of the timber felled throughout the world is used to make paper. But the paper industry does not saw off the branch it is sitting on. It is very much in its interests that this raw material can be used sustainably and will remain available as a raw material to future generations.

Sustainability means that every tree that is felled should be replaced by three or four new ones. Over the years, thinning operations weed out the weaker trees, but there is still a net gain. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reckons that there is an annual forest growth of 5 per cent in the northern hemisphere, equivalent in Europe alone to the area of 1.5 million football pitches.

Managed forests have been used for centuries in northern Europe as a raw material source. Practically all of the remaining primeval forest areas are protected. In Germany, for example, forests have been sustainably managed for two hundred years. Even in countries with large natural forest reserves, such as Russia or Canada, felling represents only a fraction of annual new growth. Sustainability involves economic, environmental and social considerations. Modern forest management uses forests as a supplier of raw materials without adversely affecting their function as a biosphere. Forest management methods therefore vary from place to place.

The situation in the southern hemisphere is more critical. According to the FAO report State of the World?s Forests 2009, the continuing destruction of forests there results from the uncontrolled development of further arable and grazing land, illegal felling of tropical timber for building, or forest clearance to create plantations for food or energy crops such as oil palms or soya. In countries like Brazil there are huge eucalyptus plantations for the pulp industry. However, these have been planted on former agricultural land that was no longer productive enough for farming.

The paper industry supports certification as a way of documenting sustainable forest management. Certificates based on defined criteria issued by independent auditors make this verifiable for customers and consumers. For the paper industry, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in particular offer effective and plausible certification. There are also forests that have long been sustainably managed without certification, however.

The European Paper Industry has committed itself to fight illegal logging. Results are documented by regular monitorings. In Germany paper companies have documented, that 100 percent of the imported wood and up to know 84 percent of the imported pulp can be identified by certificates as of legal and sustainable origin. Intenational studies like the Chatham house report on Illegal logging show, that measures like this have been contributing to reduce illegal logging.

2 PAPER is no energy guzzler

Fiction 2

Too much energy is used to make paper

Fact is

  • The paper industry has considerably reduced its energy requirement.

  • The paper industry already generates a considerable proportion of the energy it requires from renewable sources.

Energy is required for all industrial production. The paper industry is no exception: it requires energy to operate its machines and to dry the paper web. About half of the energy required in the European paper industry already comes today from renewable energy sources. Around 560 kWh of energy are required in Germany to make 200 kg of paper, which is more or less the average annual per capita consumption in the countries of the European Union. Is that a lot?

By way of comparison, 560 kWh is equivalent to:

the amount of energy consumed by a game computer with high-speed processor in nine months (767 kWh per year when used four hours a day), source: ARD
the amount of energy consumed by a single 60 W low-energy household light bulb in three and a half years (approx. 7.5 hours/day)
less than half of the amount of energy consumed annually by an average household with television, kitchen appliances, etc., left on standby.
For economical and environmental reasons the paper industry works continuously to optimise its processes. Since 1990 alone, measures have been introduced to reduce the specific energy consumption per ton of paper by 27 per cent (source: VDP monitoring of the climate protection agreement by German industry).

Moreover, the power consumed by servers and computer centres in Germany in 2008 was 10.1 terawatts/hour (paper industry 21). A total of four medium-sized coal-fired power stations are required to produce this energy (sources: ARD/VDP).

3 PAPER does not damage the climate

Fiction 3

Paper production damages the climate

Fact is

  • Paper does not kill the climate.

  • The paper industry has steadily reduced its carbon dioxide emissions.

  • Through the encouragement of sustainable forest management it helps to reduce worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

Around 160 kg of CO2 are emitted during the production of 200 kg of paper - the average European per capita consumption - equivalent to the amount emitted by a typical family car over 1,000 km.

The paper life cycle is CO2-neutral. This is the result above all of the renewable forest at the start of the production chain, through which at least the same amount of CO2 is stored as is emitted at the end of the production chain through the thermal use and composting of paper. It should also be borne in mind that the burning of non-recyclable fibres saves on fossil fuels.

The current discussion of the climate frequently refers to the ?carbon footprint? of products or processes as a way of expressing the emission of climate-relevant gases by a process or through the manufacture of a product. The manufacture of a piece of paper has a carbon footprint, as does a trip to the supermarket.

By way of comparison:

Users of e-mails for business purposes generate 131 kg CO2 per year, of which 22 per cent results from spam (source: Die Welt).

1,000 Google queries generate 200 g CO2, the same amount as a mid-size car travelling 1 km (source: Google).

Spam e-mail worldwide uses 33 billion kWh of energy per year. This is equivalent to the energy consumption of 2.4 million US households and the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as 3.1 million cars (source: McAfee/CF).

According to research by the Royal Swedish Institute of Technology, the carbon footprint when reading a daily newspaper is 20 per cent lower than it would be if the same information were to be obtained electronically on a PC from the Internet. An individual subscribing to and reading a newspaper for a year is thus responsible for the annual emission of 28 kg CO2. The equivalent for thirty minutes of computer time per day is 35 kg CO2. This does not take into account the fact that newspapers are frequently read by several individuals.

For economical and environmental reasons the paper industry works continuously to optimise its processes. Since 1990, the specific CO2 emission per ton of paper has been reduced by over 34 per cent (source: VDP monitoring of the climate protection agreement by German industry).

4 We do not use too much PAPER

Fiction 4

We use too much paper

Fact is

  • Paper is an indispensable part of our civilisation.

  • Paper is made from renewable raw materials.

  • Recycling spares resources.

Whether we use too much paper is a matter of opinion. Without paper, however, our life today would be difficult to conceive. We read newspapers, magazines and books, we expect goods to be properly packed, and we need paper for our daily hygiene. Moreover, we only see a part of the theoretical annual per capita paper consumption (250 kg in Germany in 2008). We don?t see industrial and commercial transport packing, or the files and documents in offices, not to mention the special papers that are used in vehicle manufacture, for wine filtering or for medical applications, for example.

Unlike other materials, paper is not made from finite resources but from materials that grow again. Sustainable forest management will ensure that it remains so.

Recycling plays an important role in the sustainability of the paper cycle. The reuse of processed raw materials cuts down on energy, wood fibres and waste water treatment. Some paper manufacturers document this through the Blue Angel symbol as indication of environmentally friendly production.

The proportion of recovered paper, i.e. the amount used per ton of newly produced paper, is already over 60 per cent in the European Union as a whole and 68 per cent in Germany. In other words, for every 100 kg of paper made in Germany an average of 68 kg is made of recovered paper.

5 There is no unlimited recycling

Fiction 5

We could use exclusively recovered paper

Fact is

  • Germany is a world leader in recycling.

  • But we cannot do without fresh fibres.

Like perpetual motion, endless recycling is not feasible in practice, but in fact the paper industry is not that far off. In Germany 78 per cent or around 16 million tons of used paper is recovered. Not all of it can be recycled but every year the paper industry reuses 15.5 million tons of recovered paper (2008) to make new paper. This is equivalent to a utilisation rate (ratio of recovered paper used to total paper manufactured) of 68 per cent, an outstanding performance given the vast product spectrum in Germany.

Various cleaning and processing phases are required to enable recovered paper to be used to make new paper. These inevitably involve a loss of fibre or quality. Fresh fibres are therefore required to maintain the paper cycle. Wood fibre in paper can normally be reused up to six times, in the laboratory even more.

With the machinery available in Germany and the paper made on it, the technical possibilities for increasing the amount of recovered paper used have been practically exhausted. If market developments cause an increase in the demand for recycled paper, however, new production capacities will be created in which more recovered paper, possibly imported, will be used.

In terms of quality, recycled paper stands up to comparison with paper made from mechanical or chemical pulp. It should not be forgotten, however, that some paper types have higher tear strength and printability requirements and cannot therefore be made completely or at all from recovered paper.

6 PAPER is future

Fiction 6

The paper industry is a no-future sector

Fact is

  • The German paper industry is No.#1 in Europe and No. 4 in the world

  • The sector undergoes dynamic growth

The paper industry is a high-tech sector with a future. German paper mills produce some 3,000 different paper grades ? all of them being customised to meet special requirements regarding finish and quality. Paper production figures are continually growing for printing papers and packaging paper and board, sanitary papers and a multitude of technical specialities ranging from banknote papers up to filter and laminate grades. This upward trend was only briefly interrupted by the financial and economic crisis in 2008/2009.

German papers are in international demand, too, with approx. 45 % of total production going into exports. In many areas German paper companies are players in the 1st league or even world market leaders for their products. By international standards, the German paper industry is equipped with leading-edge machinery so that it is armed for the future. In terms of production, Germany is at the top in Europe and ranks fourth after the U.S., China and Japan worldwide.

7 Online does not replace PAPER

Fiction 7

Online replaces paper

Fact is

  • Print and online media are supplementary

  • In the advertising field, print media lead the field by a clear margin before the internet

Online is on the increase, but without challenging the paper medium. Providing different benefits, both media satisfy user needs. Electronic media excel by the speed of dissemination of information, whereas print attracts consumers by its elaborate production and optical appearance, its ease and user-friendly handling and ? not to forget - the pleasure of reading it provides.

Print media are the prototypes of wireless communication: long before iPad and Co. entered the scene, print media could be carried around to any place. Today advanced print processes or the print on demand option assist manufacturers in meeting user expectations better than before. In many cases, the two media form a symbiosis. Newspapers and journals offer online services, and online offerings are solicited on a cross media basis in brochures and flyers or they appear as an additional information source in the form of printed quick response codes in newspapers.

The advertising market is a vital indicator in this context. Online advertising is no doubt conquering an increasing share. However, with 4 % of the net advertising revenues, the internet clearly lags behind newspapers, magazines and direct mailing by post which together account for 64 % of the total pie (Source: Zentralverband der deutschen Werbewirtschaft). Also well-known online companies like Google use print-advertising to promote their products.