Report details use of fresh and recycled fiber for renewable raw materials

recycled paper
CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

How to keep up with the global demand for paper? A mix of materials, says new report.

With the recovery rate of used paper for recycling approaching 70 percent in the United States and Europe, and approaching 80 percent in Japan, to keep up with our demand for paper we need to continue using fresh fiber as well as recycled, according to the premise set forward in a new report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Detailing the reasons why fresh fiber combined with recycled is important for a single integrated wood fiber system, the report examines the “complementarity” of using both and discusses the functions of different types of fibers and the issues related to both recycling old fiber and sourcing fresh fiber.

In 2012, 400 million ton of paper and paperboard were produced and consumed globally, which is double that in 1985, notes the report. As the population continues to expand and standards of living increase, this number is expected to climb by another 40 percent by 2028. While many would advocate for cutting down on paper use in the first place, in the face of global demand the most sustainable fiber may have to be the next best thing. But therein lies the rub: finding adequate quantities of said fiber will be the challenge of the global pulp and paper industry.

The report describes the most eco-efficient use of wood fiber for paper and paperboard as a cascading system. “In a simple cascading system, fresh fiber is removed from the forest and used to make wood or paper products which are recovered after use and the recycled fibers are reused in paper and paperboard manufacturing until they are unsuitable, at which point they are burned for energy, displacing fossil fuel.”

The bottom line here is the idea that while continued paper recovery will help alleviate some of the need for fresh fiber, sourcing fresh fiber will have to continue as well to keep up with global demand. To read the complete report, see Facts & Trends: Fresh & Recycled Fiber Complementarity.

Related Content on