Paper and Pulp: An Industry That’s Circular by Nature

Oct 27, 2016 10:00 AM ET

There is a growing recognition among businesses and con­sumers that we must move away from a linear “take, make, waste” model of consumption where we extract materials, produce things and discard products to landfills. We are now embracing circular economy models, which by design are restorative and regenerative. Done properly, the final result is a system in which material streams are efficiently managed and recycled. The benefits of this holistic approach are clear, resulting in less waste, lower costs and reduced environmental impact.

The pulp and paper industry is circular by nature, pro­ducing recyclable products made from renewable resources that are produced using renewable energy.

Recycling is a key aspect of the circular economy— treating all materials, including by-products, as valuable resources rather than wastes. It is especially important to recover paper and other organic materials to avoid the gen­eration of methane emissions in landfills. All of our graphics and packaging papers are recyclable, and we are strong proponents of educational outreach and programs that lead to the higher recovery of paper and other recyclable materials.

We do not believe that the use of recovered fiber is a one-size-fits-all solution and we promote a practice of “best use” for recycled fiber in paper products. Ultimately, the use of recycled fiber should be based on an evaluation of both economic and environmental consequences. Prescriptive policies or guidelines that require maximizing recycled fiber content or that control the flow of fiber markets without taking all factors into consideration should be avoided.

We have also engaged in a concerted effort to use alter­native fuels. Taking waste products from other industries and converting these wastes to energy helps reduce solid waste to landfills and provides cost-effective energy sources for our mills. Examples of our use of alternative fuels include construction and demolition wood and discarded tires that are processed into fuel chips.

Learn more in the 2015 Sappi North America Sustainability Report: