Dispelling the Myths About Newsprint
Myth: Newsprint is mostly recycled content.
Fact: While the level of recycled fibre used in newsprint consumed in North America grew three-fold in the 1990s that growth has stagnated and the majority is still virgin wood fibre. Unfortunately, newsprint produced in North America has a low industry average by global standards of approximately 20% recycled content and currently there are no industry-wide targets or standards for recycled content across Canada or the US. In some regions of the world such as the UK, industry targets have resulted in an average of over 80% recycled content. Other countries such as Ireland use an average of 51% recycled content but are actively promoting initiatives to increase that number in order to reduce their impact on forests and the climate. Overall, there is significant opportunity for publishers in North America to revitalize the efforts of the '90s and leverage their buying power to increase the amount of old newspapers that get converted back into North American newspapers. Newspapers can support the development of new closed-loop relationships to feed paper stock back to recycled mills and support a clean and recycled paper supply.
Myth: Newsprint is made of woodchips, a waste product of the lumber industry so it's an environmentally friendly product.
Fact: More than half of the trees chipped in the Boreal are specifically for paper products. Newsprint also accounts for 30% of the total pulp and paper production capacity in the region. Therefore, newsprint is not simply a by-product but an essential part of the profit equation for logging companies. Newsprint is also one of the highest volume paper products originating from the US Southeast region, where approximately five million acres are logged by the paper industry each year and 15% of North America's most biologically diverse forest has been converted to single-species tree farms.
Myth: Most of the virgin newsprint consumed in the US is made from pine plantations.
Fact: Newsprint consumed in the US originates almost exclusively in Canada and the US with each country supplying roughly half of the total US supply. Of the newsprint imported from Canada, the vast majority of the fibre originates from the old growth Boreal forests primarily in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. North America’s rare and iconic coastal temperate rainforest from the west coast are also still being logged for newsprint. Newsprint originating from the US is mostly sourced from the biologically diverse Southeast, which is the richest temperate freshwater ecosystem in the world and has the highest concentration of wetlands in the US. It is estimated that five million acres are logged by the US paper industry each year and replaced with single species pine plantations.
While single species pine plantations are often re-harvested for paper use, these ecologically inferior plantations are vastly different from the original forest. Where there once were slow-growing oaks, hickories and other hardwoods, vast pine tree plantations are planted that consist mainly of a single species such as the fast-growing loblolly. The loblolly stands are often managed with chemical fertilizers and pesticides and support 90-95% fewer species of plants and animals than the original forest they replaced.
Myth: Ancient Forest Friendly, recycled and eco-friendly newsprint is both more expensive and of lower quality than virgin newsprint.
Fact: Ancient Forest Friendly, recycled and eco-friendly newsprint is often the same price as virgin newsprint and is often found to be of better quality in terms of runnability, strength, brightness, opacity, ink receptivity and ink adherence. Visit our Ecopaper Database to see who carries 100% recycled and other eco-friendly or Ancient Forest Friendly™ newsprint.
Myth: It is absolutely impossible for publishers to increase the recycled content of their newsprint because ONP (old newspapers) fit for recycling are scarce and most of it is going to China anyway.
Fact: While North American newsprint producers face a considerable challenge when it comes to the availability of ONP, increasing recycled content is not an impossible task. The key, however is that we need publishers to first encourage more recycled content in their newsprint in order for us to create a sustainable domestic market for 'recovered' paper. This is not a process that will take place overnight but it can be done.
Indeed, efforts are needed to boost supply by developing a more robust and extensive domestic recycling infrastructure. Such infrastructure will inevitably need to address the rise in co-mingled recycling collection (where paper is often mixed with plastic, glass etc.) that makes handling such a product more difficult here in North America than in China. However, without publishers onboard, such a task is made that much more difficult. As publishers in regions such as the UK have shown, their scope of influence through the supply chain and in the public sphere provides them an opportunity to promote solutions in a way few other stakeholders can.
Replacing virgin fibre with recycled content is by far the best way for publishers to reduce their carbon and biodiversity footprint. If the publishing sector is to address its contribution to climate change and global deforestation, they must be prepared to advocate for a sustainable domestic recovered fibre market through additional de-inking and cleaner collection capacity.
Simply put, there is a way forward but newspaper publishers must be onside if we are truly going to make things happen.
Myth: Newsprint can only be made from tree fibres.
Fact: Half of the paper produced in China and India is made from agricultural crops such as wheat and rice straw and in the past five years more than 400 American and Canadian publishers have committed to purchasing policies that encourage the development of paper with non-wood fibres.
Not only do agricultural waste fibres relieve pressure on forests, but their processing is less energy intensive and requires less water. Pulping agricultural waste fibres comes with about half the ecological footprint of using virgin tree fibre.
In the 1990s a number of publishers test-printed a newsprint that was 68% de-inked old newspapers, 12% wood pulp, 11% ryegrass straw pulp, six percent rice straw pulp and three percent red fescue straw pulp. Those who took part in the test print included the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury-News and the Sacramento Bee. All publishers involved found the newsprint to be of high quality.
Recognizing that for all large paper consumers, the price, quality, and availability of paper is crucial, Canopy is currently coordinating North American pilot trials of papers containing agricultural residue and building the market for second harvest paper by identifying customer demand. We aim to stimulate the commercial scale production of papers made with agricultural residues over the next few years.