Published 3 years ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Alfonso Navarro/Unsplash
While it is crucial to maintain sustainability managed forests, sourcing paper fiber from them is not the only option to consider. As we all move toward creating a more circular economy, it’s important to also consider sourcing materials from the “urban forest.”
Over the weekend, we observed the International Day of
2012, the United Nations proclaimed March 21 as a day to raise awareness of the
importance of all types of forests — which cover one third of the Earth's land
mass, performing vital functions around the world — and this year, we celebrate
the important link between forests and biodiversity.
Forests are home to about
80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, including 60,000 tree
species. Unfortunately, forests and their wealth of biodiversity are under
threat from deforestation (which is responsible for roughly 10 percent of
global greenhouse gas
While it is crucial to have sustainability managed forests, sourcing fiber from
them is not the only option to consider. As we all move toward creating a more
circular economy, it’s important to also consider sourcing from the “urban
The urban forest consists of sorted office paper (SOP) that is recovered from
recycling bins and mined at facilities across North America, as well as
cartons and other materials where the fiber can be extracted to reuse and
recycle. From there, state-of-the-art recycled fiber facilities transform this
post-consumer waste into premium recycled fiber that feeds paper mills.
When looking into this sourcing option, it’s important to consider a company
that owns its own supply chain — enabling full control over recycled fiber
production, papermaking and converting processes. This is not only vital to
ensuring an end product of superior quality; but even more importantly,
progressing towards a closed-loop future. Beyond the important commitment to the
environment through sustainable manufacturing processes, fully owned recycled
fiber facilities can help to close the loop through their sustainable
manufacturing processes, and work to recover and reuse discarded materials.
This approach aims to recover products that have served their purpose for end
users, and turn them into new products that are sold on the market and recycled
again. By focusing on product end of life, companies truly can be sustainable
and maximize value chains, not only by feeding recycled materials into
production, but also by recovering by-products and side streams of manufacturing
The paper you are using has an impact on the environment. It isn’t limited to
carbon emissions; there’s also the matter of resources, biodiversity, water
conservation and other ecological considerations. Want the full footprint?
Consider looking for a partner who offers a systems-based, quantitative method
for evaluating the environmental impact of a product, like a Life Cycle
Assessment (LCA). Not all LCAs are the same — make sure to look for one that has
taken a holistic approach. The
one we used, for
example, looked across both operations and products, assesses a product’s entire
life — from raw material extraction and processing through to manufacturing,
distribution and disposal. By focusing on the most significant environmental
impacts of your processes, you can develop and evaluate sustainability programs
and policies more accurately. By measuring the environmental impacts of raw
materials sourcing, operations and transportation, you can make decisions that
affect long-term results for businesses and customers.
Studies also show the environmental impact of manufacturing products from
recycled materials is less than that of manufacturing from virgin materials.
Using recycled materials also reduces the amount of trees harvested and limits
cutting down trees. According to a 2018 study by the Swedish Environmental
Research Institute, paper manufacturing from virgin materials requires more
manufacturing from recycled materials. Carbon emissions created in manufacturing
virgin paper contribute to climate change — and affect human health — at a level
far greater than those created when manufacturing using recycled materials.
Even when leveraging the ‘urban forest” as a source, environmentally responsible
procurement practices are a key priority and essential to evaluating credibility.
But how can you tell if a company is up to standard?
Look for a company endorsed by Forest Stewardship
Council (FSC). The FSC certifies
products through a rigorous process as an indicator of supporting responsibly
managed forests. The FSC stamp of approval is used to identify sustainable paper
products, and promote the responsible practices that preserve and protect
forests and the greater environment.
FSC certification provides brand credibility, as customers can be confident of
the responsible origins of your products. When a business hoping to enter an
environmentally and socially aware market, the chain of custody certification is
an essential credential. Achieving certification is also a great way to
demonstrate compliance with public and private sector procurement policies.
Furthermore, every FSC label has a specific number, giving it the ability to be
tracked right back to the source.
It’s incredibly important for companies in the recycled fiber industry to be
committed to ecological leadership and work to meet the FSC’s environmental and
social standards. Working closely with suppliers and partners to promote
responsible environmental practices is the right step for other companies to
earn their FSC certifications. For some more certifications and common terms
related to forestry and sustainability, check out this
When managed and
paper materials are less harmful to forests and the environment than other
materials used in our day-to-day lives. Post-consumer recycled paper’s low
environmental footprint, ability to be recovered and re-enter a circular economy
play a large part in that; wood fibers can be recycled about five to seven
to see for yourself? You can enter your data into an Eco
to help quantify your footprint.
As we all look for ways to “close the loop” and create a more circular economy,
don’t forget about the “urban forest” as a source! By integrating sustainably
sourced paper into a supply chain, businesses can not only reduce their impact
on forests and biodiversity, but also reduce their overall environmental
footprint to help achieve their overall sustainability goals.
Published Mar 25, 2020 8am EDT / 5am PDT / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
Renée Yardley serves as Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Sustana Group — a leader in sustainable, recycled fibers and paper products.