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There’s Two Sides to every story

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There’s Two Sides to every story

May 16, 2011 - 02:20
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OULU, Finland, May 16, 2011 (RISI) -The pulp and paper industry as a whole has had a real problem getting the message out about its sustainability and green credentials. The fact is, it appears that only those of us working in the industry - or those at least close to it - are the ones who know the true story: that the modern pulp and paper industry is a world showcase of sustainability. After all, what other large scale industry on the planet can profess to use recycled material for 50% of its output, and completely renewable resources for the other 50%, at the same time as generating a lot of its own power and steam - again from renewable resources?

There have been individual company attempts to get the message over, but no matter how hard the effort, the general public still seem to believe that the industry is a deforesting, polluting monster. It seems that the only effective way to get this message across is to actually take members of the public along to some of the prime examples of modern paper production and introduce them first hand to clean, green, and renewable production.

From left to right, Jeremy Hazel and Antti Partanen of Stora Enso with Antony Rathbone, Two Sides UK winner

Starting to get the message across

Enter Two Sides to do just that. The industry association, which was founded in the UK and is now spreading its tentacles across Europe, is spearheading the campaign to get paper on the sustainability map and has been busy working very hard to get the message across. This it has done by launching high profile campaigns in the business and trade press, and directly approaching companies that are publicly declaring that using paper is bad for the environment - sometimes in aggressive fashion. In one of its the latest moves, Two Sides has gone even further; it launched a competition earlier this year among large print buyers, with the prize being an up close look at a modern pulp and paper mill, in an effort to inform paper buyers' customers, about the environmental benefits of using paper in all its various forms.

The lucky winners of the competition came from banks, automotive companies, airlines and charities, all of whom play an instrumental role in the buying of print.PPIwas asked by Two Sides to follow one of the winners, Antony Rathbone, a production and logistics manager of a major British charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, who is responsible for buying some 600 tonnes/yr of paper for promotional print collateral.

The mill chosen for the visit was Stora Enso's massive Oulu fine paper mill in northern Finland, a showcase integrated mill that produces more than one million tonnes/yr of woodfree coated. Winner Rathbone was particularly keen to find out more about the environmental implications of using paper sourced from virgin fiber as opposed to recycled fiber which stakeholders within the Macmillan Cancer Support charity expressly showed a preference for. Rathbone says: "We distribute over three million printed information titles a year, and one of the challenges for us has been how to demonstrate to the people affected by cancer who read our information, that paper is a major consideration as part of our commitment to responsible sourcing. So far a preference has been shown for recycled paper, so I want to find out more about the other options, for instance using FSC certified papers. So coming to a mill such as Stora Enso Oulu will be the perfect opportunity."

Working in a Finnish winter

This visit actually took place right in the middle of a Finnish winter, and where better place to start than in one of the country's forests, where a major part of the fiber for the Oulu mill comes from. Being only around two hours drive from the Arctic Circle, the temperature on our visit was around -10°C, and led by one of Stora Enso's forestry experts, Antti Partanen, the visitors were taken deep into the snow covered forest where harvesting was taking place. On the way, the party learned that Stora Enso wood supply unit in Finland employs some 650 people, and procures in the region of 20 million m³ of wood a year from private forests, state forests, and some imports from countries such as Russia. It was also stated that most of the wood is from PEFC or FSC certified forests, and that 100% of fiber is from proven sustainable sources.

Heli Ristola, sales director at the Oulu mill, who was also on the trip to the forest, says of PEFC and FSC certification: "We have some 300,000 individual private forests and the average size is around just 38 ha. It is much easier for forest owners here to acquire the PEFC certification as FSC is better suited to bigger forest concerns, owned by large companies, although there has recently been a new FSC model introduced in Finland for smaller forests. The two certifications on a practical level are actually quite similar, but as you go up the chain to management of them they are poles apart, FSC being promoted by the NGOs such as WWF and Greenpeace, and the PEFC being more industry led."

The Oulu mill needs around 1.8 million m³ wood a year, mostly of pine and spruce. For its hardwood needs, eucalyptus pulp from Stora Enso operations in Brazil is used.

After the trip into the forest, it was then onto the mill visit itself which sits very close to Oulu town center, Ristola explains: "Oulu is the sixth biggest town in Finland and has a population of around 130,000 people. The town and outlying area has a lot of other industries, including companies like Nokia and a big University Hospital, so in fact the mill is only the sixth largest employer here, with some 750 employees.

"But with its position this close to the town," continues Ristola, "We have to strive to be non-visible, odourless and as quiet as we possibly can."

This close to the town, the Oulu mill has to striveto be non-visible, odorless and as quiet as it possibly can

Recycled or woodfree?

The mill has a fairly long history, being around 70 years old, which for the most part were dedicated to making pulp. Paper production only started in Oulu in the early 90s with PM 6, followed in 1997 by the installation of PM 7. Both machines are 9 m wide. Ristola says: "When PM 6 started up in 1991, the one machine produced the total range of fine paper from 90 to 200 g/m², it was a pretty tough task. When PM 7 started up in 1997, it allowed PM 6 to concentrate on the heavier grades and PM 7 the lighter grades, from 90 to 115 g/m².

In 2005, the mill exceeded a huge milestone by making more than one million tonnes of fine paper in one year.

At the mill, Jeremy Hazell, sales manager, Stora Enso Fine Paper in the UK, explained the various aspects of the papermaking process to the visitors, including the fact that the term "woodfree" doesn't mean paper is not made from wood, and that making different types of paper is much like creating a recipe in a kitchen. Explaining about the manufacturing process, Hazell said: "Fine, or woodfree paper, such as is made at Oulu, is made by bringing in logs, debarking and chipping them. These chips are then cooked and all impurities such as the lignin and binding agents are taken away, leaving purer, brighter, and better quality fibers. This results in paper that is whiter, brighter, stronger and not prone to yellowing."

This was also the perfect opportunity to compare using recycled papers as opposed to stock made from virgin fibers. Hazell says: "There are recycled coated papers around, but these tend to be more expensive. We are noticing in the UK that there appears to be an increasing demand for certified (FSC and PEFC) paper grades, often at the expense of recycled products. The forest certification schemes are becoming much more widely accepted as an environmentally responsible alternative. When an end user considers using a recycled paper, are they focussing on saving trees, money, or energy? There is an argument against all of these. Of course it does still make sense to recycle, but perhaps it should be used for packaging, or for less high quality paper end uses."

Two Sides was formed in 2008 to specifically address the pulp and paper industry’s poor image among the general public. The organisation is headed by director and founder Martyn Eustace, a seasoned paper professional who has spent many years working on the front line of the paper industry in the merchanting sector. Initially rolled out in the UK, Two Sides now has representation all over Europe, and there are plans to extend the reach further, and on to other continents, starting with North America.
Today Two Sides has 300 members from companies associated with graphic communications, which include forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, pre-press, press, printing, finishing and publishing. The common goal Two Sides champions is to “promote the responsible production and use of print and paper, and dispel common environmental misconceptions by providing users with verifiable information on why print and paper is an attractive, practical and sustainable communications medium”.

A clear and simple message

The mill visit to Oulu was then followed up by a visit to Stora Enso's head office on the Helsinki waterfront. Here the party were introduced to the company's global activity, and were made aware of all the environmental implications of having operations not just in Finland, but also on other continents, for example Latin America and Asia. Marjaana Luttinen, vice president of Environmental Affairs at Stora Enso explained: "Stora Enso is a very large, global company with operations on various continents around the world and needs a lot of raw material. In 2010, 35.6 million m³ of wood was needed for our operations as a whole. Currently, 75% of our raw material comes from forests, and 25% from recovered fiber. We can trace back 100% of all the wood we use from either our own plantations, or our suppliers around the world. Around 67% of this wood comes from certified sources, for instance FSC or PEFC and this is increasing, and all Stora Enso mills are both FSC or PEFC, and this chain of custody certified."

Luttinen also went further into Stora Enso's operations in Brazil where the company is not only replanting areas of rainforest around its joint operation Veracel, but it is also providing much needed employment, health and education facilities to the local people there.

So, after two days of solid pulp and paper experience in Finland, how does the winning candidate feel now about paper? Rathbone says: "It has been great to experience the transparency that Stora Enso provides in terms of its business principles, and I have been really impressed with what we have learnt about both forest management and the mill in Oulu. Also very impressive are the steps that these major mills are taking to increase reforestation both locally and internationally, and this is something I will definitely be taking home to promote to our clients.

"Our challenge now is to see how those clients respond to messages surrounding the various forest accreditations, and my team have now started work on supporting messages for PEFC and FSC in particular, but it would be great to feel that a unified message was being promoted across the entire industry that could be simply and readily understood by the public."

Clearly Two Sides is beginning to make progress and is doing an excellent job in putting pulp and paper firmly in the public's mind as being environmentally friendly. But there is a lot of public out there, and therefore a lot of work to be done before the "man in the street" really sees paper in the way those of us in the industry see it. Marty Eustace, director and founder of Two Sides, says: "We have a huge job ahead of us. The belief that print and paper is somehow damaging to the environment has built up over a long period of time. But gradually we are changing opinions. Our recent engagement with leading banks, telecoms and utility companies has resulted in a 90% success record in getting them to change messages about e-billing being better for the environment than paper bills. Greenwash like this needs to be quickly challenged".

Eustace concludes: "Being based on wood, a natural and renewable raw material, print and the paper that goes with it, is highly sustainable - we just need to keep reminding people!"