“Paper” the preferred choice, thanks to renewable raw material, biodegradability and option to recycle. Then what is the debate about? It is about the rates at which we are consuming paper.
Global paper consumption has been increasing each year and crossed 400 million tons in 2014. Global per capita consumption of paper is 55 kg per person per year. This average is 215 kg for North America, 76 kg for China, 77 kg for Eastern Europe, 147 kg for Western Europe, while Asia has the fastest growth in paper consumption. What do we need so much paper for? We apparently require the most amount of paper for wrapping and packaging followed by printing and writing. So we know where to cut down in order to make a positive impact and lower our paper consumption.
How can we make sure we are not contributing to this problem?
Know where your paper comes from. Various third party certifications happen world wide. They empower consumers like us who want to make sustainable choices. Some of the popular certifications worldwide are FSC, PEFC, SFI, ATFS. There are a number of other certifications too.
These certifications make sure for us that
The wood doesn’t come from illegal tree felling and follows all the laws and international treaties.
It wasn’t harvested from forests with particularly high conservation values. (eg: habitats of rare or threatened species)
Traditional and civil rights of the people living in forest lands were not harmed.
Forest workers were paid fairly, and child labor was barred.
Forests maintained their integrity and weren’t converted to non forest land.
Forest products were not harvested at unsustainable rates.
Forests were replenished while maintaining their ecological balance.
Fertilizers were used in a controlled manner. They follow a list of fertilizers which are prohibited unless there is no other viable choice.
Appropriate measures were taken to resolve complaints or disputes with local people or stakeholders.
Measures were taken to minimize soil erosion and ensure management of water bodies in the area.
The wood does not come from genetically modified trees.
Certifications assure us of umpteen virtuous characteristics. The certificates cited here infer either all or some of the practices mentioned above.
KEY TAKE AWAY
About 58.9% paper is recycled globally. That said, paper cannot be recycled indefinitely. There is a constant need of fresh wood supply for making paper. Products like tissues never reach the recycling units.
Consider utility of a paper item before buying it. Gift wrappers is a classic example. They are barely used for few hours before they are torn and trashed. This time around wrap mindfully using newspaper instead.
Consider replacing single use paper items with reusable ones. Sometimes single use paper products cannot be avoided, at such times go for sustainable source certified paper products or recycled paper products so we can collectively reduce the pressure on this Industry.