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Sustainability: US paper/forest sector closer to 2020 goals; cuts energy, GHG emissions

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Sustainability: US paper/forest sector closer to 2020 goals; cuts energy, GHG emissions

July 18, 2014 - 11:09

OAKLAND, CA, July 18, 2014 (PPI Pulp & Paper Week) -The US paper/forest industry showed more progress in reaching 2020 sustainability goals including reducing purchased energy and water use, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, according to the American Forest & Paper Association's 2014 Sustainability Report.

Paper recovery for recycling was lower from 65.1% in 2012 to 63.5% in 2013, mainly due to lower demand from China, and the fifth year that it exceeded 60% toward a 2020 goal of 70%. About 78% of all US paper mills use some recovered fiber, AF&PA noted, with EPA 2012 recycling rates of 64.6% for paper, 27.7% for glass, 19.8% for aluminum, and 8.8% for plastics.

Improved energy efficiency has led to an 8.8% reduction in purchased energy, with a goal of 10% from 2005 to 2020. About 50% of pulp and paper mill energy sources is spent liquor solids, with hogged fuel and bark at about 19%, followed by natural gas, coal and purchased energy. Forty two percent of mills self-generated half their power and 23% sold excess power to the grid, AF&PA said, with 66% of energy used generated from carbon-neutral biomass.

AF&PA said industry GHG emissions are down by 14.5% toward a goal of 15% from 2005 to 2020. The emission rate in tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per ton of production has dropped 55.8% since 1972, 23.1% since 2000 and 3.9% from 2010.

Sulfur dioxide emissions in 2012 were 27.4% lower than in 2008 due to changes in fuel mix and other improvements. Nitrogen oxide emissions were 12.3% lower.

AF&PA member companies have increased procurement of fiber from certified forestlands to 29% and fiber procured through certified programs to 95%, AF&PA said. Water use has been reduced by 6% toward a goal of 12% from 2005 to 2020.

Capex and employment.The paper/forest and converting industry accounted for 4% of US GDP in 2012, AF&PA noted, with sector sales of $210 billion. Industry capital expenditures fell from $11.2 billion in 2006 to $6 billion in 2009 before recovering to $7.4 billion in 2010 and $8.4 billion in 2011, the latest year available. In 2011, paper and board mills spent $6.6 billion on plant and equipment and wood products plants spent $1.8 billion.

The industry employs a total 900,000 workers including 108,000 at pulp, paper and board mills.

Employment in the sector declined sharply in 2008, by 8.1%, and 2009, by 15.8%, with data indicating a 2.3% rise in 2013. Employment at mills was 132,000 in 2007, before the recession began.

The industry in 2009 achieved a positive trade balance for the first time in 100 years, AF&PA said, with 2013 exports exceeding imports by 2.6 million tons.