We live in a generation where electronic media is an integral part of our daily lives. However, every single one of us would find it almost impossible to get through our day without using some form of paper. From banknotes to books and magazines, the use of paper-based products throughout society is endless, and it would be difficult to live in a world without them.
Although we can all agree on the importance of print and paper, the paper industry is subject to many myths and misconceptions. In particular, the sustainability of paper and the environmental impact of its production. It is important to separate the truths from the myths, so this week our blog tackles the common fables about paper and highlights why it’s an environmentally friendly and sustainable choice for various end uses.
Myth 1: Paper is Damaging the Environment
Paper is one of few products that can be truly branded as sustainable. Paper is produced using wood fibres, a natural, renewable and recyclable material. A common misunderstanding when it comes to paper production is that it results in global deforestation. However, it is quite the opposite.
Over the past 15 years, European forests have experienced significant growth and have increased in area larger than the size of Switzerland – equating to 1,500 football pitches of growth each day. The paper industry have also introduced sustainability certification schemes to ensure many of the paper products we use today have been sourced from sustainably managed forests. Globally, the most recognised institution being the Forest Stewardship Council(FSC).
Myth 2: Paper Production is a Major Cause of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Not only is the European pulp and paper industry the largest single industrial user & producer of renewable energy, but it is also one of the lowest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for only 0.8% of European emissions.
The main energy source used throughout the European pulp and paper industry is biomass energy, a much more sustainable option due to it being produced from naturally sourced organisms such as plants, wood and household waste.
Individual paper consumption within the EU is also surprisingly low, with each person’s usage being on average 119kg per annum. This amount of paper would produce around 73kg of CO2, which can be compared to the output of driving 600 miles in a European car.
Myth 3: Electronic Communication is Better for the Environment
More and more companies are now encouraging their customers to go paperless, creating the impression that digital communication is more beneficial to the environment than classic paper-based communications.
But is this 100% true?
As we have already touched upon, the pulp and paper industry contributes very little towards global greenhouse gas emissions, whereas the Information & Communications Technology (ICT) industry accounts for almost 3% of global output. This figure is projected to rise to approximately 40% by the year 2040 as advancements in technology continue.
Paper is a sustainable choice of communication due to its renewability qualities, whereas digital equipment such as servers and generators are most often non-renewable, creating more landfills and global waste.
Myth 4: Digital Communication is Preferred to Paper Based Communication
There is no doubt that the revolution of digital communication is favoured by many due to its convenience and ease of access, but many consumers still value paper-based communication. Paper & pulp organisation ‘Two Sides’ commissioned an international survey of 8,800 consumers in 2021 and came to the following conclusions:
- 55% consumers are concerned with online security
- 74% European consumers believe they have the right to choose how they receive communications from companies
- 54% agree people should not be charged more for choosing to receive paper-based communications
Although businesses and organisations are now becoming more digital, many consumers still rely on traditional forms of paper communication, in particular those who are elderly and not digitally savvy.
After global commitments were made at COP26, businesses now have a huge responsibility to develop their business operations to help reach net-zero targets. The paper industry has a key role to play in the development of a more sustainable future, with the industry continuing to invest in environmental improvements and innovative sustainable alternatives. Sustainability has always been at the heart of everything we do at PG Paper, and although our industry is taking positive steps to reduce our environmental impact, there is still more we can do to support the drive to net-zero.
No matter how we work or go about our daily lives, we all have a responsibility to look after our planet and work together to create a more sustainable future. To find out more about the most common myths & misconceptions about the paper industry click here.