Virgin-tree paper companies spend millions on “paper propaganda.”

Virgin-tree paper companies spend millions on “paper propaganda.”

We’re the first to commend companies in any industry that adopt environmentally responsible practices. That’s why we celebrated when the virgin-tree paper mill companies began to use their wood scrap as biomass to supply some of their highly intensive energy needs. However, a creative, well-funded campaign is misleading the public to believe that this puts them at parity in terms of carbon footprint and environmental responsibility, with recycled paper. This is simply not true. The campaign goes to further to claim that virgin-tree paper is the preferred “green” choice over recycled paper.

This kind of propaganda only serves to undermine demand for authentic post-consumer recycled paper, confuse consumers, and impede the progress being made to capture and reuse paper pulp from the waste stream. “Greenwashing” threatens to take a toll on our planet, and all the living things who call our Earth home. What we need is a robust paper reclamation movement, not an expansion of tree farms that are replacing natural environments and destroying ecosystems at an alarming rate.

It is true that trees can be a renewable resource where reforestation is practiced, and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) stamp helps to ensure that trees harvested for paper are done so according to guidelines. But, one of the major worries about tree farming is the reduction of biodiversity, critical to a healthy ecosystem. About 16% of the world’s paper pulp comes from trees raised specifically for pulp. Another 9% or so comes from old growth, first generation, forests. Most of the rest of the pulp comes from multi-generation forests. Today, only X% of paper pulp comes from reclaimed paper.

It’s time we began to pay the true cost of virgin-tree derived paper. The millions of dollars being spent to greenwash a well-meaning public would be better spent on retooling our paper mills to accept pulp from the “urban forest.” We need to divert paper from the waste stream. The biodiversity of our forests is being sacrificed to paper-filled landfills where chemicals from paper seep into our soil, and methane is released into our atmosphere. Perhaps a handfill of paper executives and stockholder are getting rich off the campaign, but it’s at our expense. The cost is born by our eco-system, by our water and our air and our soil, and by future generations.

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