- MYTH: Making recycled paper is environmentally damaging.
- MYTH: There are more trees standing now than there were 100 years ago in the United States.
- MYTH: Forestry is carbon neutral because trees growing back absorb carbon.
- MYTH: Recycled paper jams copiers.
- MYTH: It is better to burn paper for energy than to recycle it.
- MYTH: All forestry certifications are equal and adequate to verify well managed forests.
- MYTH: All recovered waste paper goes to China.
- MYTH: LCA shows that virgin fibre paper is better for the climate than recycled.
CLICK THE MYTHS BELOW TO LEARN THE FACTS!
MYTH: Making recycled paper is environmentally damaging.
FACT: Recycled paper production saves trees, energy and water, produces less pollution, uses more benign chemicals, and requires less bleaching than virgin paper production. It also solves a community disposal problem. Recycling paper and buying recycled is strongly recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Even when looking at transportation impacts, studies show recycling is almost always environmentally preferable to completely virgin manufacturing, if done right. The only area in which recycled paper creates more disposal materials is in the greater amount of sludge produced than virgin papermaking. But the problem materials that fall into recycled paper sludge would otherwise have been scattered throughout landfills or concentrated in incinerator emissions or ash. Recycling mill sludge becomes an environmentally preferable way of handling potentially toxic materials such as inks and additives. The sludge of many recycling mills tests non-toxic, and sludge that tests hazardous can be disposed of by an environmentally controlled method.
Fact Sheets with More Information:
Paper to Protect the Planet: Understanding how recycled content in printing and writing paper – and all grades – reduces energy, water, chemical use, pollution and solid waste, while protecting forests.
Paper Task Force White Paper Comparing Virgin and Recycled Paper Systems
EPA WasteWise – Buy Recycled
MYTH: There are more trees standing now than there were 100 years ago in the United States.
FACT: Forests in the United States continue to be converted from diverse, natural stands to industrial tree plantations at more than a million acres a year. Its important to consider that when we count more trees, we are not always measuring native biological diversity, water quality, carbon storage quality, recreation opportunities, and protection of endangered species, all of which are values provided by protected or well-managed forests. In addition, the expanding global production of paper is the market driving the continued diminishment of frontier forests like the pristine Canadian Boreal Forest where it is eliminating habitat for threatening species such as the mountain caribou. It is driving illegal logging, destruction of carbon-rich peatlands, and the conversion to plantations of Indonesia’s tropical rainforest, risking extinction for orangutans, tigers and other extraordinary species of wildlife. And paper production affects social and environmental issues beyond just trees including local and indigenous land rights, public health, air and water quality, and climate change. Our paper choices connect us to all these impacts and an opportunity to only support responsible products.
MYTH: Forestry is carbon neutral because trees growing back absorb carbon.
FACT: It takes decades or centuries to grow the carbon back. In the meantime, the trees we could have left would have grown even more. Young forests takes one to two decades to start accumulating carbon. In these first years they emit large amounts of carbon as the remainder of the forest decays. Even if older forests or trees start to slow in their growth, they would still sequester more carbon than recently logged forests. The conversion of older, natural forests to plantations releases large amounts of carbon from the soil and biomass and the plantation replacing it will never store carbon as well
MYTH: Recycled paper jams copiers.
FACT: Today’s recycled copier paper is high quality and technically perfected for use in copiers. If the paper jams in a copier, it is not because of the recycled content. It may be that the ream sat opened for a long time and absorbed moisture. Sometimes people use paper that’s not formulated for copiers and then wonder why it jams. Use paper qualified as “high-speed” for high speed copiers. The machine may need cleaning or adjusting. Try another brand of recycled paper, just as you’d try another brand of virgin paper. See Conservatree’s Listening Study discussion of recycled content paper in copiers.
MYTH: It is better to burn paper for energy than to recycle it.
FACT: The fibres in fine paper can be recycled about 6 or 7 times before becoming too short for papermaking, saving resources, water and energy, and reducing pollution each one of those times. The impact and value of these repeated savings are much greater than the minimal amount of energy produced when the paper is burned instead. A recent study by WRAP in the UK shows that recycling is far superior to landfill or incineration for the climate.
MYTH: All forestry certifications are equal and adequate to verify well managed forests.
FACT: The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the only global, credible forest certification system. It was developed through a diverse stakeholder process and considers the economic, environmental, and social issues associated with forestry. Numerous studies and analysis have demonstrated it is more credible, independent, and there is a clear “on-the-ground” improvement of practices through FSC certification. It is the only certification supported by a broad consensus of conservation organisations. It is the gold-standard of the available forestry certifications. While improving slightly, and greatly increasing their brand marketing, other certification schemes lag far behind the environmental and market value of the FSC logo.
MYTH: All recovered waste paper goes to China
FACT: About one-third of the paper collected in the United States is exported and China is by far the leading destination. Paper’s life cycle is complicated, and some of this fibre is helping to prevent ancient and endangered forests in Asia. All kinds of recycled paper products can be purchased here in North America, and new capacity or conversion of existing virgin fibre only mills can meet the growing demand in North America, and create green collar jobs. It is true that we need to be collecting more waste paper, and collecting it better, in order to meet the growing demand, and its important that collecting your sorted, white office paper and selling it be a key part of a responsible paper purchasing policy.
MYTH: LCA shows that virgin fibre paper is better for the climate than recycled.
FACT: Life Cycle Assessment studies from the seminal Paper Task Force, to a recent study commissioned by National Geographic have found recycled paper products are superior when it comes to climate change impacts. Studies by individual paper companies comparing production of their virgin fibre product to recycled fibre at their own mill have been affected by the conditions of the mill being studied, inconsistent methodology and assumptions and have generally not been adequately transparent.