Illustration Courtesy of NCASI (www.paperenvironment.org)
Businesses today are putting an increased emphasis on “green” procurement, buying materials and supplies that have the lowest net impact on our environment. Paper products have been highly—but not always accurately—examined in this regard, particularly in terms of the relative impact of using virgin wood fiber vs. recycled fiber. National Geographic, for example, recently evaluated which type of paper to use to print its magazine.
These types of analyses are complex and must be examined on a case-by-case basis to arrive at an accurate answer. . . if there even is one. There’s the origin of the fiber, the amount and type of fuel being consumed, the pulping and de-inking processes, the number of miles the product is being shipped, and many other factors related to each individual mill’s specific processes. The National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) has developed an interactive online Environmental Footprint Comparison Tool at paperenvironment.org that illustrates how each decision made in the paper manufacturing process impacts other parts of the process and results in net environmental benefits or trade-offs.
For many consumers, the debate revolves around the basic—but very emotional—issue of timber harvesting, but there are five important things that are often overlooked:
1. You can’t have recycled fiber without first having virgin.
2. It makes sense to use both.
3. Paper can only be recycled so many times before it’s too weak to use.
4. Sustainably harvesting trees is good for the forest, people, and wildlife.
5. Forest owners who can’t profitably harvest trees often end up selling the land for commercial or residential development.
Finch Paper makes products from both virgin and recycled fibers, and each has its own specific characteristics and qualities. We also encourage people to recycle paper to conserve landfill space for things that can’t be re-used.
When it comes to recycled vs. virgin fiber, there’s no reason to choose. The world’s a better place when we use both.