Today, businesses and consumers are challenged to minimize their environmental footprint by recycling and using earth-friendly products. However, it can be confusing to identify what is actually “eco-friendly” and recyclable. It is important to understand earth-friendly options, recyclable products, and environmental initiatives employed by companies and industries in order to make educated decisions.
There are many misconceptions about sustainability in the printing industry. Contrary to popular belief, producing print materials is environmentally friendly. The carbon footprint of printing continues to decrease, as printers and paper mills are amongst the largest consumers of renewable energy. According to the 2010 American Forest & Paper Association Sustainability Report, U.S. paper mills plant more trees than they harvest, and nearly 65% of their power is generated on-site from renewable energy such as hydropower and biomass.
Statistics aside, myths, misconceptions, and knowledge gaps often cause printers, designers, and consumers to shy away from sustainable and recycled paper options. For everyone’s benefit, it is time that we debunk myths and clarify environmentally preferable paper options, once and for all.
Q: Does recycled paper perform as well as virgin paper?
A: The quality of sustainable paper solutions has improved significantly over time, and is now proven to perform just as well as virgin paper. What’s more, today’s chlorine-free bleaching methods result in recycled paper that looks just as white and bright as virgin paper without the adverse affects of bleaching with harmful chemicals.
Q: Are sustainable paper solutions more expensive?
A: Environmentally responsible paper products have aligned with conventional paper prices in recent years due to increased demand and refinements in the papermaking process. There are sustainable paper choices available for every budget level, with a variety of recycled content to meet the needs of any project.
Q: Is colored paper recyclable?
A: It is possible to recycle colored paper, including brightly colored papers. In fact, many paper recyclers receive a wide variety of paper grades, including colored and brightly colored papers on a daily basis, and do not have any challenges or problems with recycling these papers. Many recyclers will balance the amount of white versus colored papers being deinked and processed to maintain and control brightness levels of the finished recycled pulp.
Q: How can you tell if you’ve selected an environmentally preferable paper?
A: Look for certifications from organizations or paper made with recycled post-consumer fiber. This includes paper that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and/or by Green Seal. FSC is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests that sets high standards to ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way. Green Seal is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding the environment and transforming the marketplace by encouraging the purchase and use of environmentally responsible products and services. Green Seal certification verifies that the paper bearing its logo has at least 30% recycled post-consumer fiber and passes Green Seal’s rigorous standards.
Q: How do paper products earn certifications?
A: Within each certification, there are specific guidelines, steps, and criteria a company must follow in order to earn a title. FSC certification offers three types of certification: Forest Management (FM), Chain of Custody (CoC), and FSC Controlled Wood. Of the three, CoC is the most pertinent certification for our industry, as it relies on companies that manufacture, process, or trade in timber or non-timber forest products. By receiving CoC certification, a company has demonstrated to its customers that it operates responsible sourcing policies and practices, and has complied with public or private procurement policies where FSC is the preferred option.