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‘Krafting’ a solution to paper and pulp pollution

Is your paper supplier environmentally savvy? This goes beyond the issue of recycled paper. Other issues to consider include how far down the “chain” your supplier is; how efficient and environmentally safe the coating practice is for the paper you use; and whether or not the mill your paper comes from is buying pulp from “sustainable” forests.

Printing and graphics papers are made from the “kraft” pulping process. The word “kraft” means “strong” in German, and kraft paper fibers are exceptionally durable. Kraft pulping uses sulphur to get the fiber out of trees (which results in the “rotten egg” smell around many paper mills). Kraft pulping consumes less than half the wood of a tree – the rest ends up as sludge, which is landfilled or burned. Sadly, paper making consumes an enormous amount of natural resources and energy, and creates tons of waste. A few facts on that issue:

About 90 percent of paper is made of wood, and paper-making accounts for about 43 percent of harvested wood.

Paper making uses vast amounts of water. A report about kraft paper mills in British Columbia showed that 17 mills discharge about 141 billion gallons of liquid effluent (water used to make the paper) into rivers each year.

Paper making creates a lot of pollution. In addition to the sulphur mentioned above, much paper is bleached with chlorine to make it white. One byproduct of bleaching is the chemical dioxin, which is very toxic. Paper companies have greatly improved their processes to reduce pollution over the past two decades, but paper making is still one of the largest polluters in North America.

The Forest Stewardship Council is a non-profit organization that makes sure wood products bearing its logo come from properly managed forests and ecologically sensitive logging practices. The Council works with third-party auditors who track the wood products – including paper – from the forest to the consumer to make sure they are properly handled the whole way. Learn more about FSC’s paper certification process at www.fscus.org/paper


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