BackPaper, Printing & The Environment

I started this page in 2004 In order to share some of the research I had done on paper, printing and it's environmental impact before starting my business.  A lot has changed since then.  So much it's difficult to keep up with!  So please do your own research to make sure any information you reference is up to date. I hope the links will assist you and would encourage you to visit them.  Whilst I've done my best to find the facts, I can take no responsibility for the accuracy of information found through other sources.

 

Trees and Paper

Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere is one of the major causes of global warming and we contribute to it in just about everything we do.

Trees have evolved over millions of years to become incredibly efficient and powerful at withdrawing carbon from the atmosphere. They absorb carbon dioxide through tiny pores in their leaves and store it in their wood, bark, leaves and soil. Trees also help to combat salinity, reduce soil erosion, provide windbreaks, clean underground water systems and provide habitat for wildlife.

Yet every minute 100 acres of rainforest is cleared worldwide. Recent World-first research by the Australian National University, contained in their Green Carbon Report, has revealed that unlogged native forests store three times more carbon then previously thought. According to The Wilderness Society, this research confirms that Australia has some of the most carbon dense forests on Earth – and that logging and clearing them has significant climate implications.

Logging also releases carbon in the atmosphere. ANU research shows that the logging each hectare of the giant Eucalyptus regnans forests in Tasmania and Victoria releases over 1,000 tonnes of greenhouse pollution.

Only a small portion of the carbon removed from logged forests ends up as durable goods and buildings, which retain absorbed carbon for thousands of years. Australia also exports unprocessed wood chips, wood waste and sawdust. The remainder ends up as pulp and paper.

According to The Wilderness Society, the logging industry has been misleading the public by claiming that logging is good for climate change because young re-growth forests suck up more carbon than old growth forests. What the logging industry conveniently ignores is the massive carbon loss that occurs when the original forest is logged.

Additionally, precious water supplies are lost through the logging of water catchments. The Victorian government allows the logging of five of Melbourne’s water catchments which supply over half the city’s water. Logging in water catchments reduces both the quality and quantity of water coming from the catchments.

Overseas, biofuel plants are being co-located with pulp and paper mills, with the waste converted to syngas and used to generate heat and power. This provides a potential opportunity for the pulp and paper industry to produce energy and chemicals from biomass and biofuels, including for its own use. According to the Pulp & Paper Industry Strategy group, "in order to achieve leading-edge production processes, the industry would need to undertake considerably more R&D than is undertaken at present."

Where is paper made in Australia?

In Australia, Australian Paper produce office and printing paper at their Maryvale facility in Victoria. Australian Paper is the Australian division of the giant Japanese paper company Nippon Paper and the only manufacturer of white copy and print paper in Australia.

Located 150KM east of Melbourne in the heart of Gippsland, Australian Paper's Maryvale Mill is the largest pulp and paper-making complex in Australia with a capacity of approximately 600,000 tons/per year.  Australian Paper also operate a paper manufacturing facility in Preston, Victoria.

Recycled Paper Upgrade: In April 2015. Australian Paper completed a $90 million upgrade to it's paper facility at Maryvale Mill enable it to de-ink and recycle office paper. In 2015 it started producing recycled copy paper and will soon extend into envelope and printing papers. According to Peter Williams, Chief Operating Officer of Australian Paper, “This plant will take up to 80,000 tonnes of wastepaper out of Australia’s landfill each year which is enough to fill a tennis court to more than twice the height of the Eureka Tower. We are committed to meeting the growing demand for premium, local recycled paper."

The paper recycling facility has formed a partnership with Planet Ark to promote the use of recycled paper. "The amount of recycled office and printing paper used in Australia is currently quite low so there is a great opportunity for Australians to use more recycled paper,” says Paul Klymenko, CEO of Planet Ark.

The recycled office paper made at the Maryvale mill is available under the Reflex and Australian brands available with combined virgin fibre/recycled content up to 100% recycled.  Australian Paper also produce 100% recycled papers suitable for Offset print such as Revive Fleck.

For the virgin fibre (fibre made from trees or plants) content of its paper, Australian Paper describe it as residual timber from native forest harvesting that is Australian Forestry Standard (AS 4707) certified.

Other Paper Making in Australia

Amcor - produce packaging & industrial paper at Botany NSW, Fairfield VIC & Petrie QLD;

Norske Skog Australasia - produce pulp & newsprint paper at Albury NSW & Boyer TAS;

Visy - produce packaging & industrial paper at Tumut NSW (also pulp), Gibson Island QLD, Smithfield NSW, Reservoir VIC & Coolaroo VIC.

While some sites are pulp and paper mills, some carry out paper manufacturing from recycled imported fibre, and others only convert imported product.

World Paper Production

The Environmental Paper Network, in partnership with the Borealis Centre for Environment and Trade Research have created a very informative map of the world's pulp mills at Pulpwatch.org The best and worst market pulp mills in the world are highlighted on Pulpwatch.org's map in green and red according to criteria consistent with the EPN's Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry. Then they are plotted by comparing the average rating of each mill using a standard distribution model.

Where have the trees to make Australian virgin paper been coming from?

According to Australian Paper Watch, virgin fibre for photocopy paper is sourced primarily from native forest eucalypts in the Central Highlands & Gippsland region in Victoria.

From Victoria, woodchips are turned into copy paper or exported to Japan, to be made into low grade paper products. Logged areas are often cleared by burning.

Victoria is blessed with the most diverse range of habitats of any state. Their forests are home to the tallest trees and biggest carbon stores on Earth. But as Australia’s most cleared state, the challenge in Victoria to protect nature is urgent. According to The Wilderness Society, Victoria is facing an extinction crisis, with 44% of their native plants and 30% of their wildlife extinct or threatened.

But the Victorian Government subsidises the sale of native forest logs making them much cheaper than plantation logs!

So despite there being more than enough plantation timber to meet all their needs, Australian Paper have continued to use timber from native forests in Victoria’s Central Highlands because it is cheaper than plantation logs.

The native forests of the Central Highland’s are not only under threat after many decades of fragmentation from logging but were also heavily impacted by the terrible bushfires of 2009.

The forests are also the last refuge of endangered species such as the Leadbeater’s Possum, Victoria’s endemic faunal emblem.

A Forest Industry Taskforce has been established by the Victorian Government to address issues relating to Victoria's forests. It brings together a core group of 10 key stakeholders to recommend solutions to conservation, wood and fibre industry, regional employment, and other challenges facing Victoria’s forests and forest industries.  The representatives in the group are the Wilderness Society, the Victorian National Parks Association, MyEnvironment, the Australian Conservation Foundation, CFMEU, the Victorian Association of Forest Industries, Australian Paper, Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, and harvest and haulage contractors.

Logging in Victoria's Strzelecki Ranges

According to Black Rainbow, in 1998 the Victorian Government sold off the publicly owned forest in the Strzelecki Ranges to an American investment corporation called Hancock Financial Services.  This meant that logging regulations designed to protect biodiversity in Victorian public forests no longer applied in the Strezlecki’s.  This allowed Hancock to log without significant environmental restraints.

The Strzelecki Ranges has the least amount of area set aside as permanent reserves and parks than any other region in Victoria – only 2%.  Maintaining these areas as native forest is so important for the biodiversity of the region but Hancock has been allowed to proceed in the last refuge of native forest - College Creek.

In 2010 the Victorian State Government walked away from an agreement between key stakeholders which was to link significant areas of the remaining rainforest.  In it’s place they put in place an agrement negotiated in secret with Hancocks that allows for the clearfell logging of 400 ha of College Creek before it is put in reserve.  The form of the new reserve has never been made public.

According to Friends of the Earth, this area has been converted by Hancock from native Mountain Ash which are being logged, to Shining Gum plantations.  Shining Gum is not a native tree so this disqualifies them from FSC certification.  Despite this their FSC cerfication has stayed in place with FSC appearing to do nothing about it.

The video shows that koalas in this region are found to be suffering as they are struggling to find food in amongst the pine and shining gum (not native) plantations.  There is nowhere for the koalas to go for food after the native eucalyptus trees – their source of food - are removed.  Many other native animals are also affected by the clearfell logging in the Strzelecki Ranges which according to Black Rainbow is being used by Australian Paper to make Reflex paper.

For more information about what is going on in the Strzelecki Ranges please watch the video below and keep up to date here

Tasmanian Native Forests - On The Edge

September 2012 - Ausralian woodchipping giant Gunns went into administration after failing to obtain finance to build a massive toxic, forest hungry chemical pulp mill in northern Tasmania.  

Efforts by Australian Paper to gain support for a recycled paper making facility here, and the signing of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement  were reasons to look to a more positive future for our forests.  The Forests Agreement took almost three years to negotiate after 30 years of conflict between conservationists and the timber industry in Tasmania. That same year, Pulp the Mill put in a momentus effort in helping to save the Tamar Valley from the potential environmental destruction a pulp mill would have brought to this pristine area.

January 2014 - Attempts are being made to sell the rights to the pulp mill and it's timber resources again!

Australian NGO Markets for Change describe this as a recurring nightmare for our environment.  They say that as the only Australian group who has been invited to a once-off international strategy meeting of environment groups on the global pulp industry and their investors they have an exceptional and timely opportunity to affect this decision. Just as attention is on the Tasmanian Pulp Mill with investors, they can try and focus the international movement as well. If successful, this will send a powerful message to potential investors around the world.

March 2014 - The newly elected State Liberal Government in Tasmania plans to tear up their state’s forestry peace deal, the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement.

This is an agreement that took almost three years to negotiate after 30 years of conflict between conservationists and the timber industry in Tasmania.  Tony Abbott says the Commonwealth wants 74,000 hectares taken out of the Tasmanian World Heritage listing on the grounds that “We just don't see the sense in trying to lock up land which is either degraded, logged or plantation timber.  We want to see a renaissance of forestry in Tasmania.”  Greens leader Christine Milne suggests Tony Abbott may be seeking to withdraw old-growth forests from World Heritage listing so they can change the proposed controversial pulp mill in Tasmania to a native-forest based pulp mill.  Senator Milne has warned that winding back the listing would destroy Tasmania's fragile peace deal and destroy the already ailing forestry industry because "The whole world would know that Tasmanian forest products are compromised," she said.

Other parties to the Forests Agreement have reaffirmed their support for it including the CFMEU who represent forest workers.  Their president saying that “Ending this agreement will put timber workers’ jobs on the path to destruction and “undoing the conservation outcomes achieved by the agreement will reintroduce conflict – and conflict will destroy markets both nationally and internationally.

it's very concerning to see the beginnings of the winding back of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement and the unlocking of World Heritage Listed forests, opening them up to environmental destruction.  With 1% of Tasmanian jobs coming from logging forests and 15% in tourism, destroying our wild places to make low grade timber, woodchips for paper and even worse, burning them to fuel power stations doesn't even make economic sense!

Clearfelling

Clearfelling is the removal of all trees from an area with the remainder of the plants destroyed by burning. The forestry industry claims clearfelling is done to ‘mimic nature’ by producing seed regeneration however there is much scientific evidence that this is not the case. In a naturally occuring bushfire, many trees remain protected by their bark or plant tissue that can quickly send out new growth in the event of physical damage to a tree. Forest burning also releases dangerous greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, further adding to global warming.

Another result of clearfelling is soil compaction which affects the ability of plants to regenerate and the ability of the soil to capture and hold moisture. Subsoil is brought to which can change the chemistry of soil and in some instance may even lead to the soil becoming toxic.

Australian National University biologist David Lindenmayer has spent almost 20 years studying the ecology of Victoria's mountain ash forests. He says wildfires leave a centuries-old biological and structural legacy. Clear-felling, on the other hand, removes almost all vegetation, so that a quite different, botanically simplified and even-aged forest grows back. Lindenmayer says clear-felling leaves too few trees to sustain species relying on hollows. Victoria's endangered faunal emblem, the Leadbeaters possum, for example, suffers because it needs multiaged forests where short-lived, fire-loving forage trees stand under a canopy of old, hollow-bearing giants that have survived a series of mild and moderate blazes over the centuries. He says logging should be varied according to natural landscape variations. He says other countries such as Sweden are adjusting methods to resemble local patterns of natural disturbance. This means, for example, that a patch with little natural fire history would never be logged. "We are behind the world in best practice and we have some work to do to catch up now," he says. Source: Claire Miller in The Age, 13 May 2002

Forests Are Water Catchments

According to Friends of the Earth spokesperson, Cam Walker, every year for the past 20 years, about three square kilometres of Melbourne’s water catchments have been clearfell logged. About seven out of every ten trees cut down are sent off to the Australian Paper pulp mill to be woodchipped and made into paper products.”

“Melbourne has already lost a huge amount of water because of logging. Stopping logging today would mean we can begin to reclaim lost water. In 40 years we would have an extra 16 gigalitres of water every year, that’s enough water for a city of at least 100,000 people. A logging ban today would help offset water yield losses that that are now expected as a recent of recent bushfires”

So why is the Victorian Government subsidising the sale of native forest logs making them much cheaper than plantation logs?

Imported Pulp Potentially From llegal Logging

According to A3P (Australasian Plantation Products & Paper Industry Council), imports from Indonesia represent some 8.5% of Australia’s wood and paper products. It is estimated that Indonesia has lost almost a quarter of its forest area since 1990 and continues to experience a deforestation rate of close to 2% annually. A recent study prepared for the American Forest and Paper Association (Wood for Paper: Fiber Sourcing in the Global Pulp and Paper Industry) indicates that 20% of the wood fibre used by the pulp industry in Indonesia is potentially of suspicious origin.

A World Bank study estimates that the deforestation rate in Indonesia is higher than it has ever been at 2 million ha/year, representing an annual loss of forest equivalent in area to the size of Belguim.

According to the World Wildlife Fund every year an estimated $400 million worth of illegally logged forest products are sold in Australia from places such as Sumatra, Borneo and New Guinea./

How much paper do we use?

According to the Pulp & Paper Industry Strategy group, Australians consume around four million tonnes of paper and paperboard each year — an amount equal to nearly 200 kg per person. Per capita consumption of paper is high and increasing, and Australian paper output has increased, in quantity terms, at around 2.4 per cent a year between 1996 and 2006. It is estimated that between 10 and 17 trees are needed to produce 1 tonne of paper - and this is only enough for around 7,000 copies of a national newspaper!

World paper consumption reached 366 million tonnes in 2005 and is rising steadily at an annual rate of 3.6 per cent. The US and European Union consume the most paper per capita. However, global consumption growth is primarily due to solid demand from China and India. Chinese pulp imports have increased by 27.2 per cent in the first four months of 2008, compared with the same period in 2007, according to the Chinese Customs Bureau. China has around 7,000 paper machines in operation but lacks a large domestic supply of pulp and needs to import most of its raw materials and pulp from other countries, including Australia.

Pollution in the Manufacturing Process

Traditionally, paper is made white by toxic chlorine bleaching that has a negative impact on rivers, lakes, oceans and our health. Chlorine is used in a number of different forms: as elemental chlorine gas, chlorine dioxide or sodium hypochlorite. All result in the discharge of toxic organochlorine by-products. According to Greenpeace, organochlorines from pulp mills have been found in water, sediment and food chain as far as 1400 kilometres from their source.

Chlorine dioxide results in the production of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins and furans. POPs can cause nervous system damage, diseases of the immune system, reproductive and developmental disorders, and cancers in humans and other animals.

Dioxin is not easily broken down, and as a result ends up in soil, water, and on plant surfaces. From there it enters the food chain and the fats of fish, meat and into dairy products. Dioxins have been identified in products such as tissues, tampons, disposable nappies, coffee filters and bleached milk cartons & cigarette papers. Choosing paper products that are unbleached and processed chlorine free as well as avoiding meat & animal products are the best way to avoid dioxin consumption.

Alternatives to Chlorine Bleaching

Technologies are now widespread which enable complete elimination of chlorine gas from chemical pulp bleaching processes. The most established of the new technologies, with some 40% of the world bleached chemical pulp market, is Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) bleaching. ECF bleaching avoids use of chlorine gas by substituting chlorine dioxide as the main bleaching agent, often preceded by oxygen delignification. Effluents contain less total organochlorines and are less toxic than those produced by chlorine gas - but can still cause damaging effects. Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) bleaching -the best for the environment as this process uses neither chlorine nor chlorine compounds and relies solely on peroxide, ozone and oxygen to achieve satisfactory whiteness. TCF bleaching is technically more difficult and, until recently at least, more expensive to retrofit on existing mills.

Air Emissions

Gaseous emissions of concern in paper making include hydrogen sulphide, oxides of sulphur, oxides of nitrogen and ‘dust’. Volatile organic compounds (VOC's) can act as precursors in the formation of low altitude ozone, a component of smog which can have a serious effect on human health. In the US the pulp and paper industry is included in a category of ‘major sources of hazardous air pollutants’ because of the known presence of volatile organic compounds, chlorine, chloroform and hazardous metallic air pollutants in pulp mill emissions.

Uncoated vs clay-coated paper

Clay coated paper is generally much shinier than uncoated paper, and is often chosen for its glossy look. However, during the recycling process the clay coating has to be removed and is generally disposed of as waste, which reduces the amount of useful fibre per tonne recovered from recycling paper by approximately one third.

Eco Labelling

An eco label is an independent certification that is supposed to ensure important key impacts are minimised for a product. There are many eco labels that include the Blue Angel - Germany; Nordic Swan - Denmark; and the Green Seal - USA). Most eco-labels are part of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN). Wherever possible select a paper that has one of these labels but remember to read behind the label.

There are also environmental management schemes such as the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) and International Organisation for Standards 14001 (ISO) environmental management system.

FSC Labelling

FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. Established in 1993 as a response to concerns over global deforestation, FSC is widely regarded as one of the most important initiatives of the last decade to promote responsible forest management worldwide. FSC is a certification system that provides internationally recognised standard-setting, trademark assurance and accreditation services to companies, organisations, and communities interested in responsible forestry. (Source: http://www.fsc.org)

According to many observers the FSC label is being applied to forest and paper manufacuring practices that are not always environmentally sustainable. Part of the problem is that the sometimes company that carries out the certificaiton assesment is paid directly by the company that is trying to gain certification. This creates a conflict of interest. FSC labelling applied to products is also increasingly complex and may confuse or mislead consumers into buying products that are not necessarily derived from 100% sustainable sources. For more info on the problems with FSC Labelling please refer to the links below;

Researcher Chris Lang's excellent blog, FSC Watch, Forests.org, World Rainforest Movement and http://www.illegal-logging.info.

In August 2011 paper manufacturer Australian Paper was recently stripped of its FSC certification for its Reflex brand paper. Despite there being more than enough plantation timber to meet all their needs, Australian Paper have continued to use timber from native forests in Victoria’s Central Highlands to make photocopy paper like Reflex. Rather than make a truly green paper product, Australian Paper has been content to hide behind the FSC certification whilst continuing to use timber from high conservation value native forests in endangered species habitat to make its paper products.

Luke Chamberlain, The Wilderness Society's Victorian forest campaigner responded by saying “It is time for the makers of Reflex paper to move into the 21st century and make a real green product using plantation timber and recycled fibres only”

The native forests of the Central Highland’s are not only under threat after many decades of fragmentation from logging but were also heavily impacted by the terrible bushfires of 2009. The forests are also the last refuge of endangered species such as the Leadbeater’s Possum, Victoria’s endemic faunal emblem.

Pulp From Monoculture Plantations

According to the World Rainforest Movement, in spite of all the documented evidence about plantations’ impacts, they continue being promoted by a coalition of governmental, intergovernmental and corporate actors, with the aim of putting people’s lands in the hands of “corporations operating in the pulp and paper, timber, rubber, palm oil businesses” for enabling the continuing “wasteful overconsumption of the products of these plantations by nations in the affluent North”.

A group of people from several organisations have launched an international declaration calling for a halt to the further expansion of monoculture plantations. The declaration has been signed on by 8,429 people from 85 countries. In 2004, organisations struggling against the expansion of large-scale tree plantations declared 21 September as International Day Against Monoculture Tree Plantations. Since then, organisations throughout the world carry out actions on this date to raise awareness about this issue.

Given that these plantations are being promoted under the guise of “forests”, the declaration summarises the main reasons of concern: “Local communities are displaced to give way to endless rows of identical trees – eucalyptus, pine, oil palm, rubber, jatropha and other species - that displace most other forms of life from the area.”

Such displacement of people and nature gives way to a large number of social and environmental impacts: “Farmland, which is crucial for the food sovereignty of local communities, is converted to monoculture tree plantations producing raw materials for export. Water resources become depleted and polluted by the plantations while soils become degraded.”

Local communities suffer different forms of human rights violations, “ranging from the loss of livelihoods and displacement to repression and even cases of torture and death. While communities suffer as a whole, plantations result in differentiated gender impacts, where women are the most affected.” Source: World Rainforest Movement

Inks in Printing

The composition of the traditional offset printing inks varies widely. Mineral oil based inks contain hazardous substances such as petroleum hydrocarbons which release volatile organic compounds (VOC's) when drying, causing air pollution. Cadmium, mercury, chromium (which are hazardous heavy metals used in pigments for colouring); or solvents are also used as a carrier or to aid in drying. The use of mineral oil based inks also means that solvents are required to clean the printing press after use - resulting in more VOC's being released into the atmosphere.

Vegetable based inks are manufactured from a renewable resource, usually soy or linseed oil. They are comparable in price and performance to high quality mineral oil based inks, and are therefore in much wider use in recent times.

Vegetable based ink reduces the amount volatile organic compounds released into the atmosphere during printing. Plate cleaning is able to be done without solvents, using a water based cleaner. Vegetable based ink does not contain hazardous heavy metals, and creates a healthier workplace for printing staff.

Printing with vegetable based inks means that this paper is also easier to recyle, and less toxic residue is emmitted as waste.

Palm Oil Based Ink?

Experimentation has been done by at least one ink company as to the use of palm oil as a base for offset print ink. Major offset print ink manufacturer Toyo tell me that "Toyo Australia fully understands the sensitive issues surrounding the growing of palm oil. I will reiterate, we do not, have not and will not use palm oil or sell inks based on palm oil at Toyo Australia. My understanding from the Toyo Group is that similar directives are in place for all subsidiaries, including our Malaysian operation which has used palm oil in the past."

There is a Malaysian product called Print Palmol which is an ink solvent based on palm oil. However I havent come accross any ink companies using palm oil in products for the Australian market. The ink used to print Earth Greetings products is from a company called Toka and is made strictly from soy bean oil. I would not want our products to be made from palm oil as it is widely known to be causing rainforest & habitat destruction, particularly to orangutan pouplations and very little sustainable palm oil is in use. See> http://www.orangutans.com.au

Digital Printing

Digital printing should be considered as a more sustainable (and cheaper) alternative for small print runs. According to Steve Kounnas at Digital Print Australia, digital print runs waste only about 5 test sheets of paper setting up a run whereas offset printers waste about 500 sheets per run! They have just introduced a new kind of printing machine which is made from 97% recyclable material & the ink cartridges can also be refilled.

Waterless Printing

Many large presses can consume hundreds of thousands of litres of water per year as part of the normal printing process. Waterless printing takes advantage of modern Computer to plate (CtP) technology to reduce these environmental impacts by eliminating chemicals and water altogether. Many waterless printers also use Direct Ink (DI) technology and vegetable-based inks exclusively to further reduce resource use, pollution and emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC's).

Recycled Paper

Paper recycling is the process of recovering waste paper and remaking it into new paper products. There are three categories of paper that can be used as feedstocks for making recycled paper:

Mill broke is paper trimmings and other paper scrap from the manufacture of paper. Pre-consumer waste is obtained from printers offcuts and run errors, so it has never been used by consumers, and may contain virgin fibre. Post-consumer waste is made up of material that has been previously used by consumers.

Paper is recycled by mixing it with water to break it down into cellulose fibers again. Post-consumer waste must be de-inked before being recycled. Recycled pulp is commonly blended with a portion of virgin fibre to improve paper quality.

Recycled pulp is more energy efficient than virgin mechanical or chemical pulping processes. Assessments by US organisation
Environmental Defence reveal the facts when it comes to recycled paper versus virgin fibre paper:

Recycled paper uses 36% less energy consumption, 44% fewer greenhouse gases, produces 38% less waste paper and outputs 82% less solid waste than virgin fibre paper.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) has found that recycling causes 35% less water pollution and 74% less air pollution than making virgin paper.

Papers labelled ‘recycled’ often contain both pre and post consumer waste content. To be sure you're not using virgin fibre paper, it is best to choose paper products with the highest post consumer waste content available.

Beware of Greenwashing!

Many products are now being labelled as 'green' even though they still have negative environmental impacts on the environment. The same goes for paper. All paper is recyclable, so paper labelled 'recyclable' is not necessarily green. True green paper should be 100% recycled, have a high post-consumer waste content and not contain any native forest fibre.

Some paper companies are labelling their paper 'carbon neutral' as the carbon emmissions in the production process have been measured and offset. This is all very well, but if the paper contains native forest fibre, simply leaving the native forest in the ground to absorb carbon would be much more helpful to our environment!

Surely cutting down carbon-absorbing native forests can never be justified by carbon offsetting.

Which papers are better for the environment?

Here are some 100% recycled papers available at the time of writing, however please be aware that the paper industry is always changing and products are often re-branded.  These papers may no longer be available and there may be new recycled papers on the market. The World Wildlife Fund has created a great resource here, listing paper products and their environmental credentials which may also be of assistance.  

Commercial Papers (for offset or digital print - not for desktop printers):

Revive Fleck is an Australian made, 100% recycled paper which is FSC Recycled Certified. It's certified Greenhouse FriendlyTM by the Australian Government's Department of Climate Change. Pulp is Process Chlorine Free (PCF) and helps divert waste from Australian landfill sites. Made by Australian Paper and distributed by Spicers Paper.

Enviroboard Unbleached, 100% post-consumer waste (amount of post-consumer waste may vary) paper & board (brown colour). Made in Australia by Visy. Available from Ecocern & KW Doggett.

Cyclus Offset 100% post consumer waste, process chlorine free, production waste & water is recycled and holds numerous Eco-Labels as well as EMAS and ISO 14001 accreditation. Produced by DalumPapir Denmark.  DalumPapir's environmental initiatives are based on a policy of addressing the entire life cycle of a product. Waste water used in production is recycled and returned to its source cleaner than it arrived. Waste generated from the recycling process is used to create other products such as fertiliser, cement and energy. Distributed in Australia by Arjo Wiggins.

EcoStar 100% post-consumer recycled uncoated stock, processed chlorine free. The entire manufacturing process and transportation to the paper supplier is carbon neutral. Source of recycled fibre is close to mill to reduce transportation. Made in France at an ISO 14001 certified mill and is distributed in Australia by from Bj Ball.

Options Recycled PC 100 100% post consumer waste, made using energy using wind power, is process chlorine free, made carbon neutral and the first recycled paper to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance's Smartwood Program. Distributed in Australia by Bj Ball.

Impact 100% post-consumer waste & made carbon neutral from a mill that uses 86% renewable energy. The remaining Co2 emissions are compensated for by promoting controlled emission reduction projects, audited & certified by Climate Partner. The life cycle analysis tracks Impact from raw materials through to it's Austrailan distributor, KW Doggetts warehouses nationally. FSC certified, process chlorine free. Made by Lenzig Paper in Austria.

Envirocare 100% recycled printing paper containing 65% post consumer waste and 35% pre consumer waste. Manufactured in Austria by Lenzig Paper, it holds several environmental accreditations and is Elemental Chlorine Free. Distributed in Australia by KW Doggett.

Home & Office Stationery: (Please also see Tree Free Papers below.)

Ecocern is an Australian owned company who are very passionate about supplying environmentally friendly paper. They stock a wide range of 100% post-consumer waste products such as envelopes and packaging supplies. They also sell their own brand of Australian made, unbleached, 100% post-consumer recycled paper (brown colour.)

Evolve Business, Everyday and Blue Angel all contain 100% 'genuine recovered waste', which the manufacturer M-Real claim consists of paper waste recovered from offices and printers and does not include mill offcuts.

Premium Bamboo Copy Paper This white, tree-free copy paper uses zero wood in its production. Made from 100% bamboo – one of the fastest growing plants in the world and incredibly abundant. The paper is made in China under FSC certification and is totally chlorine free (bleached with lime juice). Available in Australia from Eco Office Supplies.

Reflex 100% Recycled (the one with the green label) and Australian 100% Recycled: Both made by Australian Paper using pulp recycled at their Maryvale Mill.  At the time of writing these are the only Australian made white office papers made using 100% post-consumer waste (as defined under the AS/NZS ISO14021:2000 Standard). Available in Australia from Eco Office Supplies.

Tree Free Papers:

Bamboo Paper: Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world and incredibly abundant. Bamboo is technically considered a member of the grass family. Generally cultivated for between three to five years, and then harvested. It re-generates itself naturally, with minimal rain and without the need for harmful pesticides. Bamboo is a natural cellulose fibre that biodegrades into soil without environmental pollution. It is important to look out for FSC certification on bamboo products to make sure they are made from sustainably harvested bamboo.

Denim & Cotton Paper - Denim jeans and fabric offcuts are recycled to hand-make paper. Among other places, this kind of paper is made in Australia by Creative Paper Tasmania and in India by Craft Veda.

Kenaf paper - Kenaf belongs to the same plant family as cotton. It is an annual crop which is normally grown over the wet or summer season and is harvested for fibre soon after it commences to flower. Under good conditions kenaf will grow to a height of 5 to 6 metres in 6 to 8 months and produce up to 30 tonnes per hectare of dry stem material. Kenaf has been shown to be well adapted to production in northern Australia and can be grown on a wide range of soil types. It is tolerant of drought and relatively free from pests and diseases.

Though currently one of the worlds biggest consumers of wood-fibre papers, the Japanese pulp and paper industry is keen to increase its usage of non-wood fibres and has indicated that kenaf is the preferred feedstock. Currently, Japanese importers are experiencing serious difficulties in securing supplies of kenaf. This opens up an exciting opportunity for Australia to establish and develop this new exciting opportunity. According to the New Crops Newsletter, Ausfibres Pty Ltd is a company established to commercialise the Australian production of non-wood fibre crops, particularly kenaf, for the manufacture of pulp and paper, and other end uses. A proposal for a Kenaf paper mill in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, shows estimates that the workforce would be 300-strong, with an additional 180 ancillary jobs created to supply goods and services.

Hemp paper - From 75 to 90% of all paper in the world was made with cannabis fibre until the 1880s. These included books, Bibles, maps, paper money, stocks and bonds, and newspapers. Hemp can also be used as an additive to strengthen and improve quality in wood and straw-based paper manufacture. The main reason industrial hemp use has dwinled is because it became illegal to cultivate in some countries, even though the level of THC is too low in industrial hemp to cause any psychotropic effects. Powerful lobbies by the wood-pulp mills didn't help hemp's cause, especially in Australia, as they had large amounts of forests already at their disposal.

According to the website of Western Australian Company Hemp Resources Ltd, they intend to produce 100% hemp paper and hemp blend paper in Western Australia as soon as commercial growing areas are realised and the company’s paper mills constructed.

Seeded paper - Seed embedded paper containing seeds of Australian native trees and shrubs (typically Bottlebrush) - 100% recycled (apart from the seeds!) It’s ideal for promotions, fliers, invitations, Christmas cards. read it... plant it... watch it grow. Paper-Go-Round is Australia's source of Seeded paper.

Stone paper - Made from stone grind (calcium carbonate) and non toxic resins. No water or bleaching is used to make it, and it can be recycled up to 8 times. It's photodegradable once discarded. The only downside is that stone paper can't be recycled along with tree fibre paper. However one company making stone paper, TerraSkin say it can be recycled by converting used paper into pellets which can then be used in the production of colored paper. Stone paper is available in Australia from Via Stone Paper.

Sugar Cane paper - Harvest Recycled paper is manufactured using 60% sugar cane fibre and chlorine free bleaching, but also contains pulp from sustainable afforestation. The sugar cane (bagasse – the material remaining after sugar has been extracted) fibre is sourced from the immediate vicinity of the mill – requires minimum transportation. All pulp used is bleached using an Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) process.

The wood fibre used in Harvest Recycled is sourced from internationally certified Well Managed Forests and accredited through independent third party Chain of Custody (CoC) certification. Available in Australia from Raleigh Paper.

Wheat Straw is being used to make paper products in the rural Western Australian town of Moora. The founder of River House, a small WA company, claims that a wood pulp mill costs five times as much as a straw pulp plant and uses 10 times as much energy. Furthermore, it takes 5 tonnes of wood to make one tonne of pulp, but only 1.5 tonnes of straw pulp. River House's new wheat straw pulp mill is set to produce five percent of our locally-made cardboard boxes.

Cereal Paper Temora NSW farmer-environmentalist Ian Thompson has begun a small business making paper from either cereal straw or pin rushes. Ian reduces the grasses to a pulp and presses them into paper to produce quality business cards and wedding invites.

Banana Paper The Costa Rica Natural Paper Company with its partner the major central American paper manufacturer The Simam Group, has formed the Costa Rica Natural Paper Company, which produces 100 percent recycled paper made from 95% post-consumer paper fibre and 5% banana stalks. College students grow, harvest and process the banana stalks. The end products include recycled staionery, notepads, journals, cards, boxes, art supplies and envelopes. There is no residual banana smell, but the texture is smooth and appearance very attractive. The high quality office papers can be used in printers and copiers. - E Magazine, Feb '97. Papyrus Australia has also begun making banana paper.

Poo Paper There are a number of small manufactures of 'poo' paper throughout the world. In Tasmania you can currently buy paper made from Kangaroo poo made by Creative Paper Tasmania. Approximately 25kg of kangaroo manure makes 400 sheets of paper, which is becoming a souveneer of choice for tourists. In Scandinavia, elk poo paper is the stationery of choice in most offices, and elephant poo paper, manufactured from 75% post consumer waste and 25% elephant dung is collected by the elephant handlers in Sri Lanka and provides an extra source of income for the locals to care for the elephants. "Ellie Poo" paper is available from the Green Stationery Co in the UK.

Beer Paper Manufactured using hops, malt, yeast and beer labels. 40% to 60% beer labels, 5% to 20% beer fibres, 30% to 50% TCF pulp. A strong paper with a speckled finish. "Bier Paper" is available from the Green Stationery Co in the UK.

Which Printer Should I Choose?

You should choose a printer that consider the environment a genuine priority accross all of their practices. I get asked about environmentally friendly printing all the time, so in order to make yours (& my) life easier I've created a directory here: Australian Green Printer's Directory. Printers are improving their practices all the time so this is not extensive. Any printer can contact me if they would like to appear in the directory and there is no cost to be listed.  Printers wishing to be listed need to let me know exactly what they are doing to make the environment a priority accross their printing operation in order to be listed.

Many thanks to the following sources of information:

It's been heartening to see the positive changes made to the paper industry over the years since I started this page. I hope to continue to provide a gathering of resources to assist people to make informed choices.  As environmental awareness grows & the world shifts to a low-carbon economy, the paper industry is subject to much change, hopefully for the better.

By staying informed, we can make a big difference to our impact on our environment.

~Heide Hackworth, Founder of Earth Greetings

Heide Hackworth