Planet Ark's Partnership with Australian Paper
Author: Chris Philpot
Why is Planet Ark working in partnership with Australian Paper? Planet Ark Environmental Foundation works with individuals, business and government to take positive action for the environment. One of our key focus areas is efficient resource use. In almost all cases recycling of resources leads to lower impact on the planet across a number of dimensions including lower energy use, lower carbon emissions and lower water use. The creation of Australian Paper's Maryvale Recycled Paper Plant aligns well with Planet Ark's long-term support of recycling as a key behaviour change to minimise our impact on the planet.
What specific Australian Paper products is Planet Ark supporting? Planet Ark supports 50%, 80% and 100% recycled content. We have included the 50% range, as this is the most commonly accepted level by larger customers and attracts the highest demand. Additionally, with a significant uptake of 50% recycled content demand for recycled paper will grow significantly. However, we strongly encourage larger organisations to choose the highest possible amount of recycled content.
Why is Planet Ark supporting a product that is less than 100% recycled? Individual paper fibres can only be recycled around 7 times before they break down and can no longer be used, therefore new fibre must be added to the overall mix. Blended products also mean less compromise on appearance and are important if we are to transition recycled paper from niche to mainstream.
What is the aim of Planet Ark's partnership with Australian Paper? The partnership between Planet Ark and Australian Paper has three aims:
- To increase recycling of office and printing paper
- To reduce Australian waste paper going to landfill
- To increase the use of locally made, high-recycled content paper by business, households and government.
What is Planet Ark's role in the partnership? Currently, there is a significant lack of business engagement with recycling of office paper and use of recycled paper. Historically, recycled copy paper had a reputation for lower quality and whiteness relative to virgin fibre paper. Modern recycled paper is of a very high quality with little noticeable difference in appearance or performance from virgin fibre paper. Planet Ark's role is to encourage paper buyers to switch to high-recycled content paper. This task is made easier by the increased quality and performance of recycled paper.
Planet Ark's role is to provide support to Australian Paper in its drive to increase the acceptance and usage of local recycled paper. A number of activities are under development to garner greater business and consumer understanding of the benefits of local recycled paper.
Why has Planet Ark engaged with Australian Paper in this activity? Currently the amount of recycled paper used in offices in Australia is low. Studies have consistently shown that there are significant social, economic and environmental benefits in using more recycled paper. The benefits of recycled paper are well known to environment groups, but many businesses and consumers have yet to make the switch.
Recycled paper is very much about efficient use of our natural resources. Paper fibre is not infinitely recyclable but can be used a number of times. Collection of office waste paper and recycling into premium copy and printing paper provides a way to extend the life of our resources. The diversion of paper away from landfill also prevents the potential for paper fibres to breakdown a process that can generate significant greenhouse gas emissions.
Planet Ark believes that there are significant benefits for the environment in promoting recycled paper usage along with the benefits to the Australian economy from employment and using our own resources in a more efficient manner.
Who are the major users of office copy paper in Australia? Most Australian businesses and households use office paper. Large corporations and government agencies are major users, but overall usage is widespread.
What are the environmental benefits of recycling paper in Australia? Recycling paper directly in Australia has both economic benefits and prevents waste paper going to landfill. Recycling of fibre extends the life of that fibre and reduces the reliance on virgin fibre. However, some input of virgin fibre will always be required to maintain the cycle of fibre consumption.
Until the Maryvale plant is running at optimum capacity, it is impossible to quantify its absolute environmental benefits. However, once it reaches production capacity Planet Ark will be working closely with Australian Paper on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the recycling process. Factors such as emissions, water and energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions will be examined. Australian Paper already has much of the data for its current process so a comparison will be possible and a process of continuous improvement adopted.
What percentage of recycled paper is available? A range of recycled papers is available encompassing 100% recycled fibre to a 50:50 blend with virgin fibres. The papers are designed for a range of printing requirements that include visual appearance and whiteness preferences.
Will the recycled paper be certified? Yes it will be certified. Australian Paper is Chain of Custody certified to both the AFS and FSC. Planet Ark's position on certification is clear - it supports forest certification.
It is critical that this source of fibre is from certified sources. Planet Ark is working with the national certification bodies and their associated members to improve standards that provide high levels of biodiversity protection and stakeholder engagement. Planet Ark believes that any tree-based product should have adequate certification to show that it is from a well managed source and that there is a chain of custody in place. Planet Ark will be supporting the use of certification of the recycled product.
What percentage of recycled paper vs virgin paper is best for me to use in terms of quality e.g. what percentage will look, feel and perform the same as non-recycled paper? 50% Recycled paper has a similar whiteness to virgin fibre paper and is a great starting point, but Planet Ark hopes to see organisations transition to 100% recycled as the ideal.
Does recycled paper cost more for me to purchase than non-recycled? Australian Paper expects that its recycled paper products will be offered to the market at competitive rates.
If it's that important for people to use recycled paper, why doesn't the Government make people and businesses use it? The Federal Government has mandated that its departments and agencies switch to 100% recycled office and printing paper by mid 2015. Many state and local governments also support recycled paper. It makes sense for government at all levels to specify recycled paper and support sustainable Australian manufacturing.
What should I look out for to make sure that I'm choosing Australian made recycled paper? Look out for the Planet Ark Make it Recycled logo.
What are the advantages of using Australian recycled paper? There have been many advantages attributed to the use of recycled paper and we will be examining these with Australian Paper. The Recycled Paper Plant will not be producing until mid-2014 so we can't as yet make a direct comparison. As part of the programme of comparison we have requested a life cycle assessment (LCA) of the Maryvale plant so that we can compare the environmental impact of the virgin and recycled pulp production.