Sustainability has been a buzzword across every industry in the past few years. Whether it has involved looking for more environmentally-friendly ways to run a supply chain or setting off on endeavors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from production, sustainability has taken the stage in a big way throughout 2015.

In a movement towards corporate responsibility that started in 2014, this year saw major strides in businesses stepping up to the plate for the environment and other socially-charged issues, reported Forbes.

"The most successful companies in the 21st century will be led by boards of directors comprised of people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and areas of experience and expertise, who can envision the company's greatest potential in solving the world's most compelling social, environmental, and economic challenges," said consultant and author of A Better World, Inc. Alice Korngold, according to the source.

The paper industry promotes sustainable supply chains
The paper industry is no exception to this movement. As of late, waste conversion technology has promoted sustainability within paper mills and throughout the paper-making supply chain, explained Renewable Energy Magazine.

The process of manufacturing paper is not exactly easy on the environment. It is considered an industrial process that uses up high levels of water and energy. This production cycle produces both emissions and unwanted residual materials, noted the source. Yet leaders in the paper-making industry are conscious of the bad PR this unsustainable process gives their businesses. As such, they have been motivated to seek out ways to conserve materials and reduce waste

This is where energy-from-waste technologies come into play. Many leading paper-makers turn to EFW solutions to cut down on emissions and excess materials, reported Renewable Energy Magazine. It has always been an industry standard to recycle discarded paper in order to create new products. The American Forest & Paper Association's annual sustainability report has cited this as an accomplishment year after year.

But this has not been the only industry effort. Increasingly, paper mill leaders are using what is called waste-to-energy systems. These mechanisms allow for increased sustainability goals, decreased emissions and a reduced reliance on fossil fuels as a whole, according to the source. Paper mill businesses have turned to biomass energy made up of manufactured residuals.

"On average, about 66 percent of the energy used at AF&PA member pulp and paper mills is generated from carbon-neutral biomass, which is made from manufacturing residuals that do not end up in finished products, including spent pulping liquors, bark, wood, wood scraps, wood byproducts and process residuals," noted the AF&PA, as cited in Renewable Energy Magazine.

The newest sustainable technology for paper mills
While these technologies have existed for some time now, recent developments have made the process of converting byproducts into energy a much more obtainable goal for paper mills. The paper industry as a whole has adopted advanced technology that allows for the collection, treatment and conversion of waste into energy or saleable byproducts.

This process helps companies out by not only creating a more environmentally friendly production process but also by reducing the reliance on purchased power and landfill costs which ultimately saves money for the paper mills, explained Renewable Energy Magazine.

Within a paper mill, rejected byproducts that are unsuitable for paper can account for as much as 10 percent of raw material produced. Many of them also contain stored energy value which can then translate into useable energy for the mill. Paper mill boilers can use a variety of materials and byproducts such as: bark, waste wood, sawmill residuals, pulping rejects, furniture industry scrap and demolition wood. Moving forward, paper mill operators will continue to work with equipment manufacturers to properly integrate energy feedstock preparation systems, reported Renewable Energy Magazine.

The paper industry has existed for centuries. It has survived many ups and downs, including the digital boom. While the world of paper products may not be as lucrative as it once was, there is always room for improvement. By taking a significant step toward sustainability, the paper industry is once again proving its resilience.