Think Outside the Chinese Box

When is an empty carboard package full of meaning? When everything you knew about paper and recycling is about to change. From the China Morning Post we just learned that China, where paper making was invented, is poised to become the world's number one producer of paper, overtaking the US inside this decade, and importing huge quantities of old growth timber to do it. A few brief quotes from the Post story illustrate: "In the last 10 years, about 14 large paper machines, each costing US$250 million to US$500 million with annual production capacity of more than 100,000 tonnes, were installed in China every year..." In that same period, "North America, however, was not adding capacity but shutting down machines..." "According to a report by CIBC World Markets, from 2001 to this year, China accounted for 47 per cent of the global increase in boxboard production capacity, 38 per cent of the global increase in newsprint production capacity and 44 per cent of the world's increase in production capacity of coated printing and writing paper"."China imports from many countries where forest management is weak, which increases the potential negative impact on those countries...". For example, "In 2002, China's declared imports of Indonesian wood and wood-derived products exceeded Indonesia's declared exports by 2.6 million cubic metres".

That cardboard box with the Chinese characters on them, sadly, might be made from trees that once carried the 'Old Man of Borneo'. Those "engrish" assembly instructions were written on the rainforests of Indonesia or the arboreal forests of Sibera. And, what we send to the recycler now is highly unlikely to slow the cutting, given the growth rates in Chinese paper production.

OK that's enough anti-matter. What's the matter to overcome with? Above all, demand the highest recycled content possible. If the market demands it, China will have to comply. For starters, I have decided to ask for everyting I can to be delivered digitally, which brings us to this good news opportunity.

One of our readers tipped us off to this offer that, for now, only works in Australia but may well expand elsewhere. eTree is a Computershare environmental initiative with Landcare Australia to encourage shareholders to elect to receive all their shareholder communications electronically. Everytime a shareholder registers an email address through eTree, a donation is made on their behalf from the participating company to Landcare Australia.