The paper production industry is often chastised for its perceived environmentally detrimental practices, but this sentiment is actually quite far from reality. The industry is largely associated with deforestation and contributing in a major way to the degenerative state of Earth's atmosphere, even though statistics show that reforestation efforts have offset the negative effects of producing paper materials.
Since many have an ill-conceived view of paper manufacturers, it is important to make distinction between practices that actually cause severe damage to the environment and those that are more or less nullified by positive contributions. For example, while digital marketers and technology experts constantly make claims that you can "go green" by abandoning paper and switching most of your important services to electronic alternatives, they neglect to make mention of the pollution that operating mega data centers – a requirement in sustaining online platforms – causes, not to mention the energy consumption that devices account for.
The truth of the matter might actually surprise some people: Paper companies are inherently less destructive to the environment than digital industry constituents, and they often embark on eco-friendly initiatives to help reduce carbon emissions and other harmful detriments. A few examples of these actions can be found below.
1. Green packaging is becoming prominent
There has been a sizable surge of late in the popularity of green, or sustainable, packaging for distributors, according to a recent study conducted by Transparency Market Research. The major advantages that companies are enjoying by implementing such initiatives include reducing their carbon footprints and saving money by reusing recycled products. These materials are broken down to a base level and then repurposed for a variety of new functions, the study noted.
The source expects the market for eco-friendly packaging to grow between 2015 and 2021. In fact, TMR projected a CAGR of 6.4 percent for the industry during that time period. The paramount categories within the overall sector are considered to be food and beverage packaging, personal care packaging, and health care packaging based on the exceptional amount of use each has exhibited. The report indicated that North America, Europe and Asia Pacific are the most prominent regions in the market, but that it is expected to grow worldwide, as well.
2. Scientific advancements could help propel paper into the future
Technology company IBM has stepped forward to provide a fresh perspective on the long-term sustainability of the pulp, paper and fiber industry, Environmental Leader reported. The organization's researchers in Australia have managed to model cellulose, which is primarily used to create paper, at a molecular level. If properly applied and utilized, this model could assist in creating more disease-resistant crops, strengthening the paper industry for the long run by providing additional resources.
Another possibility opened up by this research is the production of synthetic paper by using the cellulose model. This process would obviously cut down on deforestation and create the opportunity to produce an indefinite amount of paper products.
3. Paper industry waste is being recycled into chemicals
Phys.org referenced a recent study by the KU Leuven Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis in Belgium that could potentially restructure the entire process of waste disposal in the paper production industry. The researchers found a new way to derive lignin, which is a a waste product, from wood and convert it into chemical building blocks. These chemicals can then be used to create other in-demand commodities, including paint and insulation foam.
The study focused on lignin, rather than cellulose, as the primary extraction with which to create useful chemicals from wood. Instead of disposing of this substance, the new method could create opportunities to fully maximize the potential of each tree that is harvested.
4. Wheat-straw paper products are being adopted by marketers
Many companies use print marketing strategies to great effect, but while these campaigns can be financially lucrative, they can also consume a lot of paper. However, Virtual-Strategy reported that communications services company Sprint – perhaps best known as a mobile device provider – is engaging in a new trend: the use of wheat-straw paper to enhance its eco-friendliness. The product does not appear to be any different than traditional wood-based paper, according to the source, but it is far more sustainable and can be mass-produced with fewer harmful side effects.
In addition, Sprint also offers a reusable envelope for its customers who receive paper billing statements each month. Virtual-Strategy remarked that this practice is not only eco-friendly in terms of reducing consumption, it is also a cost-cutting move for the company, which reported savings of about $500,000 annually. Overall, the source noted that Sprint has used these initiatives to cut down on the amount of paper it purchases every year, an idea that has been successful to the extent of reducing annual costs by 83 percent since 2007.