Extending the Life of Paper

Paper products are often described as inherently sustainable—recyclable products made from renewable resources that are produced using renewable energy.
Sep 16, 2015 8:30 AM ET

At Sappi we are also committed to sustainable or “smart” consumption of paper, eliminating wasteful use. Only by using paper wisely and purposefully can we be assured of meeting growing demand for generations to come.

Smart Consumption
Direct marketers and catalogers have adopted practices such as maintaining good mailing list hygiene and using more targeted versions of catalogs with fewer pages rather than mass-mailing a single, larger version. We encourage our customers to be efficient with their use of paper. If a graphic designer opts for a heavier basis weight paper for tactile purposes, they will often modify the layout to create smaller page sizes. The best marketers realize that integrated, multi-platform marketing campaigns make effective use of print and online communications.

Beyond Coated Papers
In Sappi’s Release Papers business, our products are primarily used to impart texture on other decorative surfaces such as synthetic fabrics and laminates. Our paper is part of the production process, not the final product, and is designed for multiple re-use. Scientists at our Technology Center constantly look for ways to improve release paper products so that re-use is maximized, with many of our release grades providing customers dozens of re-use cycles.

Our new dissolving pulp business makes wood pulp that is converted into viscose staple fibers, which are spun into threads to make textiles. While fabrics are highly reusable, many consumers do not realize they are also recyclable. At Sappi we encourage stakeholders to seek out used clothing donation centers. Most facilities will put reusable clothing back in circulation while sending the rest to textile recycling facilities, where materials are sorted and processed to recapture the basic fibers for use as raw materials for making new products.

The Waste Management Hierarchy
We fully embrace a waste management hierarchy that focuses on source reduction first, followed by re-use and then recycling, all actions that prevent waste. In some cases for products that are difficult to recycle, incineration with energy recovery is the next best option. Ultimately, the primary goal is to keep paper products out of landfills, where they can decompose and form methane, a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 25 times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Within our own operations, we strive to minimize the waste of our raw materials. One of our five-year goals is specifically focused on the reduction of both fiber and coating material losses in our pulp mills and papermaking areas (see p. 11). Any form of internally generated waste paper is either returned to the paper machines as a furnish component we call “broke” or is sent to a recycling facility.

We also utilize alternative fuels such as construction and demolition wood, tire-derived fuel and reclaimed waste oil. Use of these resources results in cost savings for the mills, and by converting these waste streams to energy, less waste goes to landfill.

Designing for End of Life
Designers have significant influence on the overall environmental impact across a product’s life cycle. Choices made at the design stage range from material selection, type, size and quantity of materials used, efficiency in use and ultimately how easily a product can be re-used, recycled or disposed.

For example, within the realm of packaging, plastic shrink film labels are growing rapidly in use due to their ability to conform to unique shapes. However, for many municipalities, bottles covered with shrink film labels are not considered recyclable. Pressure-sensitive labels are recyclable, but users must find a means to dispose of the label’s release liner, which is typically coated with silicone and difficult to recycle. An alternative is the standard glue-applied “cut and stack” paper label, which eliminates the use of a release liner and can be easily removed for either re-use or recycling of a wide variety of bottle shapes and materials.

Once a material is selected, care should be given to identify suppliers that work to minimize the environmental impact of their manufacturing process. Tools such as GreenBlue’s Environmental Paper Assessment Tool can be utilized to make comparisons between suppliers of similar paper products. For more information visit www.greenblue.org/work/epat/.

Read the full Sappi North America Sustainability Report 2014 by downloading an online PDF version directly from our website here or for more on sustainability, check out our eQ microsite at: http://www.na.sappi.com/eQ/index.html