Dispelling the Myths about Print and Paper

Phil Riebel

President, Two Sides North America, Inc.

Communicating the facts about the use of print and paper continues to be a struggle with certain companies and entities spreading untruths about its sustainability. Two Sides North America, Inc. has been on the forefront of tackling the relevant environmental and social issues head-on with factual, authoritative information that exposes the myths, explains the unique, sustainable features of print and paper, and gives stakeholders a solid foundation for making well-informed decisions about the use of print and paper. Below is an overview of many of the facts and studies Two Sides advocates to help provide current information to the printing/graphic arts industry.

Changing perceptions by challenging “greenwashing”

A primary initiative of Two Sides North America is to challenge corporations when they are making misleading environmental claims about print and paper.

Two Sides has released an infographic that illustrates why so many North American companies (now over 120) have removed ‘go green – go paperless’ and similar environmental claims. The arguments for why companies are changing their messaging include:

  • Paperless ‘green’ claims must follow marketing rules in the U.S. and Canada. Claims need to be accurate, truthful, and supported by reliable scientific evidence based on accepted standards.
  • Papermaking is not a cause of forest loss in North America. The main causes are urbanization, agriculture, hydro, and other developments.
  • Corporate marketing lacks transparency about the environmental impacts of going digital. Electronic communications have a significant and growing environmental footprint and use non-renewable raw materials for manufacturing.
  • Consumers are not switching to digital due to green claims. Paper is still preferred by many, and a recent study has shown that paperless green claims do not convince consumers to switch to online services.1

Paper and Packaging have a Positive Story to Tell

Paper producers and the forestry industry, in general, have been battling the perception that using paper and packaging products is bad for the environment. While there is always room for improvement, the paper industry has concentrated efforts on responsible forestry management, recycling, and reducing energy use and GHG emissions.

One way Two Sides shares these messages is by showing how the paper and packaging industry is part of a circular economy where the renewability of raw materials, use of renewable energy, recycling and reuse all factor into the manufacturing design. 

Know Where Your Paper Comes From – Sustainable Forest Management

Innovations in the Canadian forest industry have made operations more efficient and significantly reduced energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) production. While Canada’s total GHG emissions were increasing, pulp and paper mills have cut emissions by an impressive 66% since 1990, the equivalent of 9MT of CO2 a year.2

In 2017, production in the Canadian forest sector contributed $24.6 billion.3 The industry directly employs about 209,940 people4 in 600 communities. Half of those depend on forestry for at least 50 percent of household income, and about 160 of those communities are solely reliant on forestry.5

The majority of Canada’s forest land, about 94%, is publicly owned and managed by provincial, territorial and federal governments. All three jurisdictions together have the ability to create and enforce the laws, regulations and policies required to meet Canada’s commitment to sustainable forest management across the country. 

Recycled Paper and Fresh Wood are Essential to the Paper Life Cycle

In North America, paper is recycled more than any other commodity. Canada has one of the highest paper recovery rates in the world at 70%. Recycling is a key aspect of this circular economy— treating all materials, including by-products, as valuable resources rather than wastes.

While collecting and recycling paper is good for the environment, wood fibers in recycled materials eventually become weak and break down after a maximum of 5 to 7 times of use.6 Without fresh wood, recycled fiber would quickly run out, and paper production would rapidly cease.  As such, a continuous supply of fresh wood fiber harvested from responsibly managed forests is vital for keeping the paper life cycle going.

The Carbon Footprint of Paper is Lower Than You Think

A look across the life cycle of paper shows that its carbon footprint can be divided into three basic elements: greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration, and avoided emissions. Each of these elements make paper’s carbon footprint smaller than might be expected: it’s made from a renewable resource that stores carbon, it’s manufactured using mostly renewable energy, and it’s recyclable.

One of the great advantages of papermaking is that the manufacturing process uses a large percentage of renewable energy in the form of carbon-neutral biomass (wood waste from sustainably managed forests).  Roughly two-thirds of the energy used by North American pulp and paper mills is self-generated using renewable, carbon-neutral biomass in combined heat and power (CHP) systems.

The Canadian forest products industry has eliminated the use of coal and cut oil use by more than 90% since 2000. 7 Bioenergy is increasingly used to generate electricity, accounting for 57% of the industry’s energy use in 2015. 8

Preferences for Paper in a Digital World

Paper plays a significant role in our cultural development – contributing to education, literacy, security, and personal preference to receive information on paper versus digitally. In 2019, Two Sides North America partnered with global polling firm, Toluna, to conduct consumer surveys on how Canadians feel about print and paper.9

  • 46% of Canadian consumers think they spend too much time on electronic devices
  • 52% of 18 to 24-year-olds have concerns that the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging to their health
  • 68% of Canadians consumers believe print is the most enjoyable way to read books

Two Sides will continue to bust myths about the print, paper and packaging industry through facts, research and data. You can find resources and materials on the website at www.twosidesna.org including infographics, fact sheets and marketing tools, or you can learn about becoming a member.

Two Sides is an independent nonprofit organization created to promote the responsible production, , and sustainability of print and paper.  Two Sides is active globally in North America, Europe, Australia, South Africa and Brazil. Our members span the entire print and paper value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, pre-press, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes, and postal operators.  For more information about Two Sides North America, please contact us at 1-855-896-7433 or info@twosidesna.org. Visit the Two Sides website at www.twosidesna.org and follow Two Sides on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.

1 Two Sides Infographic, Why Are Leading Companies Removing “Go Green – Go Paperless” Claims

2 Forest Products Association of Canada, 2019 http://www.fpac.ca/wp-content/uploads/FPAC_CCC_Small_ENGLISH-1.pdf

3 NRCAN. http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/pubwarehouse/pdfs/39336.pdf

4 Statistics Canada. 2017. https://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/statsprofile/employment/ca

5 FPAC. http://www.fpac.ca/canadian-forestry-industry/economy/

6 Two Sides Fact Sheet, Recycled fiber and wood fiber from well managed forests are both essential to sustain the paper life cycle

7 FPAC, 2015. Growing a greener tomorrow. http://www.fpac.ca/wp-content/uploads/FPAC_Environmental_Brochure.pdf

8 Natural Resources of Canada 2018. The State of Canada’s Forests.   http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/pubwarehouse/pdfs/39336.pdf

9 Two Sides Busting Myths Toluna Survey, 2019

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