Chlorine Free Paper Issues


Should we not cut any trees at all for paper-making?

LISTENING STUDY: Most responses indicate that trees should be cut to make paper. Some responses reference the importance of exploring nonwood alternatives and/or using pulp from sustainably harvested trees. One response mentions that agricultural plants should replace trees as the dominant fiber source for papermaking.

After postconsumer recycled content, trees are an important and effective source of fiber for paper and paper products. - Victoria Mills, Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships, Environmental Defense

Before wood pulp became widely used in the late 1800s, agricultural plants were the dominant source of fiber. Cotton, straws, and hemp - the paper used to draft the Declaration of Independence - were the fibers of choice.
     There is no shortage of nonwood fiber material in this country. U.S. farmers annually generate an estimated 280 million tons of excess agricultural fiber, suitable for papermaking. Generally these fibers are known to be pulped with higher fiber yields than wood and require fewer chemicals to be processed, less water, and energy.
     Farmers would benefit from new income from those residues that would otherwise be burned. There would be new opportunities for value-added rotational crops; new uses for over 65 million acres of idle farmland in the United States, such as is widely found in the State of Minnesota; and new replacement options for declining industries, such as tobacco. These benefits to farmers and the environment cannot be fully realized as long as logging subsidies give an unfair advantage to wood at the expense of nonwoods and the American farmer. - National Forest Protection Alliance

Other fiber sources do exist. In fact, many have been around for centuries. They go by a number of terms: tree-free, nonwood, alternative fibers, environmentally preferable. Generally speaking, the tree-free papers we're emphasizing in this book offer a number of environmental advantages over wood-based varieties.
     This is not to say that we should no longer consume wood products of any kind. In certain heavily forested regions of the country, trees may remain the best choice of fibers. To this end, sustainable forestry initiatives have emerged in the last decade and the first U.S.-made papers containing Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) third-party certified tree pulp debuted in October 1998. Forests certified by FSC agencies adhere to strict guidelines that attempt to balance selective management practices with watershed and endangered species protection. - Imhoff 1999

I think growing and cutting trees to make paper, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. - Michael Snyder, Forester

Trees are the best source of virgin fiber for papermaking (see question 60). Compared with alternatives (hemp, kenaf, cotton), trees are much more environmentally-friendly.
a. In temperate climates annual crops require that the soil be kept bare for 8-9 months of the year, and even when crops are growing there is bare soil between the rows. The sediment runoff from these agricultural lands is orders of magnitude greater than from forestry. This is reduced somewhat if cover crops are used, but the sediment runoff is still far greater.
  b. Alternatives are almost always are non-native plants. In North America and Europe, trees grown for paper are all native plants.
  c. Chemical use (fertilization, pesticides) is much lower for forestry.
  d. Forestry can maintain habitat for all except old growth species, whereas non-tree field crop alternatives are essentially "non-habitat" for native species. - Robert R. Bryan, Forest Ecologist, Maine Audubon

Since there are alternative fibres that produce high quality paper, we need to develop use of these alternatives for making paper. This does not mean that we cannot cut any trees for paper making, but we can certainly vastly reduce the number of trees cut for paper and there should be no need to cut old growth forests to make paper. - Susan Hammond, Executive Director, Silva Forest Foundation

It makes sense to obtain our fiber needs for papermaking from trees. At the present time fiber from sustainably managed forests provides the fiber needs for the industry in the most efficient and environmentally conscious manner. - Stora Enso

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