Sustainable Paper And Pulp Production: A Brief Guide

Paper has many different uses. Receipts, paper bags, cartons, and books all use paper. That being said, the utility of paper is quite clear especially given the fact that the world is going greener by the day. However, while there has been a lot of progress in attaining a green standard in the paper and pulp industry, there’ve also been quite a few challenges.

Also, as our contemporary society has evolved over the years, the demand for paper has increased exponentially. Probably because we use a lot of it. It comes as no surprise then that the world is creating sustainable processes and innovations to increase yields to sustain the ever-increasing demand for paper globally. You’d be right in saying that the rate of innovation, as far as making paper is concerned, is quite rapid.

Unfortunately, paper and pulp production account for some of the pollutions in our society. Also, plenty of water is wasted during the process. As much as 100 liters of water can go into making a kilogram of paper. Moreover, due to poor industry practices, the polluted water that comes out as a byproduct of this process is dumped in places where it shouldn’t be e.g., the ocean. Also, on that note, a lot of energy is wasted in the process. Almost every stage of the paper-making process uses a lot of energy.

guide on sustainable paper and pulp production

Also, in the world’s bid to make the future renewable, wood will be a very important part of this transition. Therefore, sustainable forestry should be instituted as a matter of urgency otherwise it will be hard to meet our targets. Mind you if resources are used improperly, unwanted consequences may arise.

That being said, the following is a brief guide on sustainable paper and pulp production. It details some of the things you need to know about the industry seeing that it’s an industry that’s seen many advancements over the years. It also gives some vital outlooks as far as sustainable forestry is concerned.

1. Sustainable Manufacturing and Harvesting

Wood is the primary raw material in the paper-making process. Paper is made from pulp and pulp is made from fibers (cellulose) found in wood. As such, plenty of wood is required to produce more and to meet demand. Thus, the necessity of sustainable forestry. More forest is needed to harvest and produce more. The move towards sustainable paper and pulp production has to be facilitated by adopting innovative technology. Here’s why:

Since production starts in the forest, you need the machinery to harvest the wood. Sawing equipment like deck saws and saw chains are used to cut and log trees for further processing. To minimize wastage and save time, you need the help of advanced technologies. Reputable brands like Pacific Trail Manufacturing have a wide array of equipment to choose from. They have the most cutting-edge technologies in terms of sawing trees.

Moreover, if sustainability is to be attained in the paper and pulp production industry, it should start somewhere at the source (forest) e.g., if you salvage time savings, money savings, and reduce waste (water and electricity) by using advanced technology when harvesting wood, these costs, and environmental advantages will trickle down the value chain.

Machine technology is more effective and efficient compared to the human hand. Humans are not as fast as computers, robots, and machines. Since machines are more productive, they make fewer mistakes than humans. Mind you, making mistakes may not be good for a business’s bottom line. That’s why the paper and pulp production process is mostly automated. Human involvement is needed before upkeep and maintenance. From source to processing to the end product, every part of the production has some form of automation in it. A sustainable future cannot be secured apart from innovation, information and technology, and machinery.

2. Forest Biodiversity

This establishment of sustainable forests is good for the industry. It allows for the spread and diversification of plant species. Also, if done right, it contributes towards environmental equilibrium. While it is true that some people still engage in irresponsible logging activities, there’s still a concerted effort toward making the paper-making process environmentally sustainable. You certainly don’t want to produce paper at the expense of natural habitats. Also, you do not want to destroy habitats all for the sake of meeting a demand for paper. It makes a lot of economic sense, but it’s morally skewed.

Moreover, when forests are grown specifically for raising trees that will be used in the paper in paper production, we preserve the integrity of the nature reserves surrounding those areas. That’s why it’s important to have regulations in place that govern how sustainable forestry should be done. You need to work with nature lest it works against you.

Furthermore, the whole point of sustainability is to improve productivity without worsening the condition of nature. Otherwise, we will pay a heavy price for disrupting the equilibrium that’s already there. Thankfully we have experts in the field of biodiversity research. Tons of research help people to understand the dynamics of nature, what to look out for, and how we can improve production without damaging our environment.

3. Certification

The objective of certification procedures in forestry is to legitimize the paper and pulp production process. It’s no secret that healthy forests are essential in building a sustainable production process. The paper production industry accounts for a lot of waste as mentioned before. So, if sustainable production is to be attained, regulation is required.

In North America, there are three notable programs in place to help validate processes of harvest and production namely the American Tree Farming System (ATTS), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI). They are all different regarding the key focus areas they intend to address. But the end goal is more or less the same, to instill credibility accountability in forestry.

These programs can elaborate on the practices which are supposed to be followed by all landowners as far as growing trees and sustainably harvesting them is concerned. Those landowners who can prove their certification automatically improve their credibility. They will also have greater access to other markets. The more landowners that partner with such endeavors, the more sustainable the value chain will be. Remember, if any sustainable future is to be secured, it has to start from the source.

An additional benefit of managing forests is that the paper and pulp industry accounts for a lot of jobs globally. Establishing regulations that protect forests can contribute to protecting the jobs of the many people who are employed in the industry. Throughout the value chain, you will find that there are a lot of people who are employed from the tree cutting to the final product (paper).

4. Renewable Energy

Paper is perhaps one of the most renewable substances on this planet. Paper recycling is quite popular nowadays and it accounts for much of the paper that we use. The fact that paper is recyclable means that it’s a better substitute for non-renewable substances like plastic. The more that our world gravitates towards a pro-paper society, the more inventive people have to be to extract more volumes of paper from waste and landfills.

paper-recycling

Demand is and will most likely stay high. Recycling is going to be a part of the renewable future that the world is aiming towards. A lot of energy is lost in processing and extracting paper. Therefore, innovation will be a constant feature insofar as attaining sustainable paper and pulp induction is concerned.

Also, relying too much on energy can be deleterious because it means that if a power cut occurs, the whole process will be affected. Using renewable energy sources to facilitate production can help. Renewable sources of energy like biomass and solar energy are alternatives to electrical energy.

Although the energy from renewables is hard to harness, it’s possible to create hybrid systems that utilize both renewable and non-renewable energy. If the production process is transformed into a renewable machine as much as possible, less energy is wasted and fewer emissions are produced. A renewable energy cycle can be created wherein most parts of the system are powered by green energy.

5. The Problem of Deforestation

Deforestation is a big problem. Agriculture, mining, and construction projects are the main causes of deforestation. It’s a practice that marks the epitome of unsustainable forestry. Harvesting trees without replacing them will lead to all kinds of problems in the long run.

sustainable forestry

If people make the habit of cutting forests illegally and not replacing them, it could lead to desertification and habitat loss. This also ties in with biodiversity loss which is devastating to maintaining the equilibrium of the environment. Destruction of food chains can have far-reaching effects on the entire ecosystem. That’s why deforestation must be shunned. Also, that’s why forests are being regulated more diligently.

Moreover, deforestation is a barrier to sustainable paper and pulp production. If deforestation is allowed to continue, the hope for building a sustainable paper and pulp production system is futile. It’s like moving forward-backward. That’s why most authorities around the world put punishments in place for people who cut trees without permits or some form of authorization legitimizing their activity. Trees are an important natural resource and they must be protected. If trees are harvested improperly, the effects will be felt across the whole production chain and in the environment.

Conclusion

Sustainability is much sought after in today’s contemporary society. Thus, the drive for efficiency and innovation in production. The pulp and paper industry is no different. There is no determining what the ceiling is when it comes to technological innovation. All that can be ascertained is that any form of progress is welcome. Because if the future is to be green, every opportunity for growth needs to be utilized. All things considered, sustainability is and will always be a worthwhile goal.

About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the CEO of BioEnergy Consult, and an international consultant, advisor and trainer with expertise in waste management, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection and resource conservation. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biogas technology, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. Salman has participated in numerous national and international conferences all over the world. He is a prolific environmental journalist, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. In addition, he is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability through his blogs and portals. Salman can be reached at salman@bioenergyconsult.com or salman@cleantechloops.com.
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