Sustainability Facts

Industry Insights | November 21, 2023

Print is One of the Greenest Industries in the World

How sustainable is the paper industry? Paper is made from an infinitely renewable resource. Trees for use in the paper industry are purpose-grown. This means trees are grown, harvested, and regrown in sustainably-managed forests. The paper industry also reuses its waste; converting old printed materials, make-ready, and cutoffs into post-consumer waste (PCW) paper. Paper is recycled more than any other material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. This translates to about 40 million tons of paper and paperboard products annually. The U.S. EPA reports 65% of paper and paper-based packaging gets recycled.

Deforestation is defined as permanent conversion of forests to other land uses. Sustainably harvesting trees to make paper products does not cause deforestation—trees will grow back! According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, net U.S. forest area increased by 18 millions acres over the past 30 years, despite deforestation from urban development.

How does paper stack-up versus e-mail?

Electronic communication is not more sustainable than print on paper. While e-communication has transformed the way we live and work, it also has wide-ranging environmental impacts. For example, according to Global E-waste Monitor, electronic communication requires environmentally invasive drilling and mining for the finite raw materials and rare earth metals needed to manufacture electronic devices. Yet more material and energy are needed to construct and maintain the massive server farms supporting our devices and their networks. Unfortunately, only about 15% of electronic devices in the U.S. end up being recycled. Per the U.S. EPA, the paper industry accounts for less than 0.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. It seems counterintuitive, but paper is the “greener” choice.

According to the American Forest and Paper Association, nearly 2/3 of manufacturing energy demand at U.S. paper mill is met using renewable, carbon-beneficial biofuel. What’s more, water used in paper manufacturing is recycled up to 10 times. After the water has ran its course in the paper manufacturing chain, it is cleaned to meet strict water quality standards and around 90% is returned to its source. In a report from the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), about 1% of this water remains in manufactured products, while the rest simply evaporates back into the environment and the natural water cycle.

If you have questions about our recycling process or energy-saving initiatives, feel free to contact us.


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