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Re: [GreenYes] Recycled Paper Markets
Pablo Collins writes:

> With all due respect to Conservatree and the Alliance for Environmental
> Innovation and their recent study of paper markets, it is important to
> recognize that they just addressed a small percentage of the paper
> industry. Without a doubt, there is room for change in the printing and
> writing paper segment of the industry ---- magazines, catalogues, copy
> paper and stationary.  These products, however, are just a small part of
> the paper picture. Tissue, newspaper, recycled paperboard, wallboard
> facing paper and the liner and medium which go into corrugated boxes are
> creating a significant demand for commercial and residential papers.
> The American Forest & Paper Association latest data shows that close to
> 50% of paper consumed in the US is recovered for recycling and recovered
> fiber now constitutes 37% of the paper industry's raw material. (The
> difference is made up in exports of recovered fiber to mills in Canada,
> Mexico, Asia and elsewhere.)  In other words, what otherwise looks like
> a bleak recycling report, only addresses a small part of the picture.
> The big picture is much brighter, even if prices aren't.

Thanks, Pablo, for reminding us about the progress in other paper industry
sectors. I want to talk about a couple of the issues that you raise.

First, printing and writing is not a small percentage of the paper industry.
Globally, it is more than 2.5 times as large as newsprint production and it
is one-third of total paper and paperboard production. In the U.S., its 27
million annual tons is more than 3.5 times as large as newsprint production,
nearly four times as large as tissue, more than half of all paper produced,
and more than one-fourth of paper and paperboard production combined. So it
is not a backwater, by any means.

AF&PA's recovered paper consumption numbers are impressive when taken in an
overall context. But looking at them only this way obscures some of the
important realities. For one, all recovered paper is not equal. Recovered
newsprint, corrugated, and office papers all must go to different types of
recycling mills, so high numbers in one category are not meaningful in
another and do not necessarily suggest that the entire system is working
well. While I am glad that recycled content is higher in other paper
sectors, I think that printing and writing paper has significance even
beyond its production share.

After all, why are we focused on recycling? Is it just to find a home for
the papers we can recover? Is any place that we can stash recovered paper
fine and equal to all other options? I'm hearing that perspective from local
government people who are charged with meeting high recycling goals, and I
can appreciate their dilemma. But is that really meeting our goals?

I think that, at heart, recycling is about conserving resources, minimizing
the environmental impact footprint of our production processes, developing
production systems that are as environmentally sustainable as possible. From
that perspective, it is very significant that the fibers in printing and
office papers are high enough quality that they can be recycled many times
over - some manufacturers have told me they think it could be up to 10-12
times, as long as there is also a continual influx of some virgin fiber.
Contrast that to newsprint, which can be recycled 3-4 times at most, and
tissue which is not recycled at all (despite some of the public's fears and

In other words, if we were doing a much better job of getting recycled fiber
into printing and writing papers, then "each fiber's" savings in trees,
water, energy, and reduced pollution would be magnified many, many times -
something that is not possible in most of the other paper categories. To me,
that seems an essential goal of a healthily functioning recycling system.
And that's why I think it's critical that we work on bringing the  printing
and writing paper sector up to the significantly higher recycled content
levels found in some of the other sectors.

Susan Kinsella

Susan Kinsella
Executive Director
100 Second Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118
Phone: 415/721-4230
Fax: 415/883-6264

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