How much paper do we use? According to the Pulp & Paper Industry Strategy group, Australians consume around four million tonnes of paper and paperboard each year — an amount equal to nearly 200 kg per person. That's a lot. Unfortunately paper use is one of the biggest drivers behind deforestation worldwide. By choosing recycled papers (and using less), you can help contribute to the protection of precious forests and water catchments and to the habitat of rare and endangered species.
Sounds simple, right? Well maybe. Let me walk you through the forest of ethical choices. Don't get lost!
Australian Paper is the only Australian manufacturer of white copy and print papers. The company was previously Australian-owned but in 2009 was purchased by Japan-based Nippon Paper Group.
Victoria's forests continue to be logged at a rate of nearly 5,500 hectares annually. Australian Paper is the largest purchaser of wood from Victoria's native forests, with approximately one-third of their wood fibre being supplied from these areas. A significant amount of this is sourced through the state-government-owned enterprise Vic Forests.
Vic Forests has been criticised in the past and recently (Oct 26, Nov 1, Nov 24) for logging in contentious areas of old growth forest, which threaten endangered species. The Leadbeater's possum is one example, now critically endangered, having very specific habitat requirements, they are now largely restricted to small pockets of the Central Highlands of Victoria.
The Regional Forest Agreements, set up independently in each state, are exempt from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 — the Federal Government’s own 'central piece of environmental legislation' and 'legal framework to protect nationally and internationally important flora and fauna'. This article elaborates and looks at RFA legislation state-by-state.
The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups have recommended avoiding all products by Australian Paper in an effort to apply pressure for change, and encourage a move towards plantation and recycled pulp. The Wilderness Society began the Ethical Paper campaign in 2010, specifically boycotting Australian Paper and the Reflex brand.
They recommend sourcing paper with the highest percentage of post-consumer-waste recycled content. See recommended brands here. All these papers are 100% post-consumer-waste recycled paper (PCRP). However most of them are manufactured and use pulp from overseas. Ecocern is the exception being made from 100% PCRP and manufactured in Leichhardt, NSW - here in Australia. (It is unbleached, so brown in colour).
Australian Paper have responded to growing public awareness and concern about these issues. In 2015 they completed a $90 million upgrade to their Maryvale Mill paper facility to enable it to de-ink and recycle office paper. They produce a range of papers with various degrees of recycled content.
In 2016 they formed a partnership with Planet Ark, launching the 'Planet Ark 100% recycled' branded white office paper. This is (quoted from website) "100% Recycled using Australian waste paper; FSC certified for chain of custody for the waste paper; Carbon Neutral and certified through the Australian Government's National Carbon Offset Scheme; and Australian Made in Victoria, supporting the Australian economy and local jobs".
We encourage you to choose recycled content, and preferably 100% post-consumer-waste recycled content. That means it's been out amongst us in a past life and then collected up and re-processed into something new! Depending on what you value most, you may choose the Planet Ark copy paper (manufactured locally by Australian Paper), or choose to avoid Australian Paper products as recommended by the Wilderness Society campaign and instead choose an imported product (or Ecocern).
A big thanks to Heide Hackworth, of Earth Greetings, for the great collection of facts relating to all this at this blog post.