To get a good handle on what’s happening in the paper and packaging sector, it’s important to look at the wider forces shaping business across the globe. These megatrends affect everything from automobiles, to food, to office paper.
Snapshot of an Industry: Recycling Rate
Here’s a continuing trend that we’re keeping an eye on: Climate Change and Dwindling Resources. With rapid population growth, comes the escalating need for water and other critical natural resources like wood. This in turn prompts a greater requirement to reduce our use of, and recycle, these resources.
In the US, paper and paperboard is now recycled at a 70% rate, up 81% since 1990. (source: pwc.com) Through a number of campaigns and efforts on the parts of the government and businesses, consumers have made the shift to keeping recycling top of mind, and they often seek out products that are easily recycled, have been recycled, or maintain a smaller carbon footprint. Thus, companies with a clear commitment to reducing their environmental impact are increasingly viewed more favorably.
Where does that leave the paper industry? We’ve made great strides in the quality of recycled paper over the years. What used to be a lesser product is now on par with some of the most premium papers. While specs and flecks cannot always be completely removed from finished recycled papers, this paper is aesthetically sound, with a high opacity and a relatively smooth finish.
Sustainability from Start to Finish
Another way to responsibly produce premium copy paper is to start at the beginning. At Double A, this means that we begin with the most effective and environmentally sound tree for our pulp. Out of 2,500 specimens, we cultivated the Double A Paper-Tree. Then we had Thai farmers plant it in their unused spaces between the rice paddies. This sustainable wood saved us from harvesting virgin forests and hurting their biodiversity.
Energy and water are also important resources. Since the pulp and paper industry is one of the largest consumers of energy (third in the U.S. as industries go, using 11% of domestic energy in 2010), this is another place for improvement. (source: worldwatch.org) At Double A, we use the biomass created during the production process to power our electric plant, and we conserve rainwater from the rainy seasons in our own reservoir, both to share with the local community. Steps like these are an important part of our culture.
As an industry, we also need to focus on reducing toxic chemicals like chlorine bleaching. “Since the 1990s, most paper mills in Europe and North America, as well as modern ones in China, have moved either toward elemental chlorine free—a safer, although still harmful process—or toward totally chlorine-free paper.” (source: worldwatch.org) At Double A, we use an Elementary Chlorine Free (ECF) bleaching process that is chlorine gas free. This technology effectively reduces toxic by-products from the bleaching process, thus minimizing chlorine related health hazards.
So we’ve made progress as a company and an industry, but there’s still more progress to be made. Where to next? We choose to look at this as a great opportunity. See the ways we’re working to make this planet better.