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Rethinking paper strategies

May 1, 2008 12:00 AM


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Transformation was the theme of the 2008 Recycled Summit sponsored by Boise Paper, which was held in Denver March 12-13, 2008. More than 100 managers from the airline, financial, entertainment, education, government and other industries discussed the environmental impacts of paper procurement, usage, and recycling.

Boise's new president and CEO, Alexander Toeldte, opened the conference by explaining the need for a paper sustainability conference, how much recycled paper is used in the U.S., and the dramatic growth in fiber recovery.

Toeldte, who joined the firm 10 days prior to the summit, when the paper division was sold to a private equity firm, said the country is doing a better job of recovering fiber for recycling: 53.5 million tons of fiber were recovered for recycling vs. 33.5 million tons in 1990. “The goal of this conference is to help you understand how we produce recycled paper, how you can help us to recover more fiber for recycled paper, and how your company can make a difference,” he said.

It's up to us

Catherine Greener, vice president of sustainability consulting at Saatchi & Saatchi, addressed the need for individual and corporate action and urged attendees to do their part. “The real revolution begins with us,” she said. “We have to adjust our own behavior in what we think and what we do. Start with a personal sustainability project. Engage your employees and your families. Choose one issue and change it for a month. For example, begin to use cloth napkins rather than paper. Stop using disposable plastic water bottles.”

Some well-known firms in the U.S. have already started to make this transformation, according to Rachel Beckhardt of the Environmental Defense Fund. For example, Starbucks began to use post-consumer fiber in its coffee cups and Citigroup added 30 percent more recycled paper to its usage. McDonald's and UPS also have stepped up their green efforts.

What can firms do to reduce their paper usage? Beckhardt suggested using less paper, maximizing recycled content, being selective about using virgin fiber, seeking out suppliers who use best forest practices, evaluating mill performance and promoting recycling.

About half of the audience indicated it had used the Environmental Defense Fund's online Paper Calculator (www.papercalculator.org,) which allows users to compare different types of paper and shows them the different environmental impacts across a paper's full lifecycle. “The paper calculator provides a user with all the different environmental impacts depending on their choice of paper,” says Beckhardt. “Through using the technology, Scholastic, Pizza Hut, and Random House, have all publicly announced better paper choices.”

Four corporate managers led a panel discussion on how their firms are transforming into environmental and sustainable businesses. “Our ordering department specifically looks for environmental products,” said Sue Mills, the director of environmental practices at OfficeMax. “Our recycling bins are made out of recycled products. We're moving to more use of electronic catalogs rather than paper and retrofitting our light fixtures with environmentally-friendly light bulbs.”

Jolecia Marigny is the director of safety and environmental services for Entergy Corporation, a nuclear energy/electric facility primarily delivering power to customers in the South. She described her firm's 2006-2010 plan. “Phase One's goal was to recycle 30 percent of our copy paper in 2007,” Marigny said. “Phase Two's goal was a 100 percent recycled station and envelopes during this year. Phase Three in 2009 is to recycle our aluminum cans, cardboard, and plastic. Our initiative has saved 3,000 trees, 1.1 million gallons of waste water, 142,000 pounds of solid waste, and 266,637 pounds of C02 equivalents.”

Brandy Wilson, the EMS manager for the North American office of CH2M HILL, an environmental and engineering consulting firm, set a goal to reduce paper use by 5 percent. But after establishing a sustainability policy, the firm found it had reduced paper usage 23 percent by increasing the use of double-sided printing. “Even though we reduced our paper usage, our costs went up because recycled paper is expensive,” says Wilson.

Allen Schuman, senior sourcing specialist for Disney Worldwide Services, Inc., noted his company was given the Waste Wise Gold Achievement Award from the Environmental Protection Agency for paper reduction. “It took time,” related Schuman. “It started as a ground swell and worked its way up. Today, Disney has recycled more than 850,000 tons of materials since 1991.”

To help attendees learn how recycled paper is produced and why it generally costs more than non-recycled paper, Boise presented several sessions about how recycled paper is created — from harvesting the raw materials to manufacturing the substrate. Brad Holt, the environment management and public policy at Boise, explained where wood is harvested and why we still need wood. “Recycled paper can not be recycled forever,” he told the audience. For this reason, countries, including the US, are doing a better job of recovering waste. The US uses 65 percent of wood pulp and recovers 35 percent; Canada uses 86 percent wood pulp and only recovers 14 percent; Japan uses 41percent of wood pulp but recovers 59 percent; and China only uses 10 percent of wood pulp but recovers 56 percent.

Benefits of certification include an assurance that wood is harvested legally, detailed tracking, and companies are responsible and performance-tested. “Only 10 percent of the world's forests are certified,” says Holt. “We should applaud those who certify and we should strive to make sure that the number goes up.”

Consider the source

Holt concluded by telling the audience, “When you buy your firm's paper, consider the origin of the fiber, the legality, the forest certification status, and the chain of custody. Think and be cautious as to who helps you with your purchasing policies.”


Debora Toth is a freelance writer and editor who has been covering the printing industry for 26 years. She can be reached at deborat@aol.com.