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China’s paper recycling industry can help shield forests from destruction

China’s paper recycling industry can help shield forests from destruction

China’s paper recycling industry can help shield forests from destruction
July 15, 2007

China’s massive paper recycling capacity is helping shield global forests worldwide from destruction by supporting an international market for wastepaper as an alternative to pulpwood, says a new report released by Forest Trends, an international forestry organization. Nevertheless, wastepaper alone is not enough to meet demand from China’s growing paper industry.

According to the report, China’s wastepaper imports increased by more than 500 percent—from 3.1 million metric tons in 1996 to 19.6 million metric tons in 2006—over the past ten years. Today about 60 percent of the fiber used to manufacture paper and paper board products in China is derived from wastepaper.

“China is by far the world’s biggest consumer of wastepaper and that’s a good thing because in the last four years alone, China has prevented 65 million metric tons of wastepaper from heading to landfills in the US, Japan, and Europe,” said Brian Stafford, the lead author of the report. “Just last year, China’s use of wastepaper instead of trees to make paper products probably saved 54 million metric tons of wood from being harvested for pulp.”

However as producers struggle to meet growing domestic and international demand for paper products especially for higher quality papers, they continue to “source substantial amounts of wood and wood pulp from countries where good forest management cannot be assured,” said Stafford.

“The biggest environmental challenge related to China’s paper industry is to prevent its growing demand for fiber from driving ever more forest destruction in places like Indonesia and Eastern Russia,” Stafford explained. “Wastepaper can only provide so much fiber and with huge new pulp mills coming on line in China, there is a legitimate concern that future growth in China’s paper industry is going to happen at the expense of already stressed natural forests in the tropics.”

The report says that certification schemes, like those established by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Tropical Forest Trust, could help slow illegal harvesting by allowing producers to track pulp and pulpwood along the supply chain back to legal and sustainable forests. It also recommends that government buyers of paper demand paper products from sustainable sources.

The report: Environmental Aspects of China’s Papermaking Fiber Supply [PDF]

This article is derived from a Forest Trends news release.

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