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The Big Debate - Sustainability in the Paper Industry

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The Big Debate - Sustainability in the Paper Industry

December 12, 2011 - 16:52
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BRUSSELS, Dec. 13, 2011 (RISI) -When the objective is to have an open and frank discussion on the subject of sustainability in the paper industry, what better opportunity than the Big Debate. The debate panel comprised of five members from around the industry - producers, printers, and environmentalists alike - who each aired some of their passionate views surrounding this topic. The result was a very lively discussion that saw a few surprises and where the panelists found themselves agreeing more should be done to get the message out to consumers.

The Big Debate, organized by RISI and sponsored by HP Colorlok, was filmed in its entirety before an audience in Brussels, Belgium, and has been published in a video series on YouTube. Below are links to each video in the series.

How to make a perfect piece of paper

What makes a perfect piece of paper? Jim Ford of Climate for Ideas said it would be "made from 50% recovered paper and 50% agricultural waste, and then recycled afterwards." To which John Sanderson of UPM responded that you must consider the different grades, weights, and types of paper. "The role of the fiber has to be in balance," Sanderson says.

Certification schemes and other logos

Why does it seem that FSC certification has come to dominate every NGO agenda? Is there room to agree with any of the other certification schemes? Larry Tracy of HP Colorlok voiced his concern that the different labels are confusing. "Confusion reigns when choosing the right paper," says Tracy. "If a pack of paper has a green logo on it, with a tree, a frog or a bear most people think it is alright to use."

Sustainability in biomass

The audience joins in asking a few of their own questions on sustainability. Should there be certification schemes on burning wood? How does the industry prepare for sustainability when it comes to addressing sustainability in biomass? From the floor, Marco Mensink of CEPI commented, "a level playing field will be created when biomass suppliers have to comply with new EU legislation."

Electronic media and Paper

Is electronic media or paper the more environmentally friendly way of communicating? Surprisingly, the answer may depend on exactly what you want to do. And how should the industry account for the infrastructure required to use electronic media in place of paper? Are the true environmental costs being accounted?

Should we use paper at all?

Is there a disconnect between the reach for sustainability and the benefits of using paper. Gareth Ward, Editor of The Print Business magazine, says he sees graphic designers looking to paper for a myriad of uses. But when they go out into the industry, the sustainability push may be forcing consumers to make the wrong choices. "We can use paper in innovative ways and create new products because the technology now allows it," says Ward.

If not trees, should we plant potatoes?

Forest owners, when faced with the changes in the industry, are asking what should be done with the managed forests. One audience member says, "Should I just burn it or plant potatoes?" The question is more complicated than it sounds. Economic challenges for land use make it difficult to retain an unproductive forest. But what is sustainability for the paper industry without trees?

Recyled versus virgin

Is recycled or virgin paper a better image for sustainability? "You simply cannot survive with just one," says Sanderson, "one is only there because the other exists." Answering for the NGOs, Ford concluded that he doesn't know of anyone who is against paper "full stop." The key is to find a balance in the use of paper, "a utility scale," that can help stop waste and improve paper for everyone.

The Panel

A good recipe needs the right ingredients; likewise, to have a good, compelling debate, you need the right people with strong ideas. The panel members came from across the board of the paper industry, and allied and associated industries and bodies, as well as a representative from the NGOs.

The NGO:Jim Ford, Climate for Ideas. Mr Ford is a policy advisor to several NGOs and a member of both the North American and European Environmental Paper Network Steering Committees.

The Printing Product Development Director:Larry Tracy, programme director, HP. Tracy has thirty years experience in developing digital printing technology and heads up the Colorlok program for HP.

The Paper Manufacturer:John Sanderson is director, Environmental Market Support at UPM, the Finnish paper giant which is one of the leading bio and forest companies worldwide.

The Paper Industry Initiative:Martyn Eustace, director of Two Sides, a paper industry initiative designed to dispel the myths associated with the idea that paper is detrimental to the environment.

The Printing Magazine Editor:Gareth Ward, Editor of The Print Business magazine, is well known in the worldwide graphic arts industry as a commentator on printing technology and production trends.

Click here to watch the whole series:
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL44F2BF285505F9CE