A circular economy is a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment. In contrast to the ‘take-make-waste’ linear model, a circular economy is regenerative by design and aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation
The paper industry supports the circular economy by using all parts of the tree and by-products or waste produced from other wood product processes. This includes forest thinnings, sawmill chips and saw dust, which can all be used in the manufacture of paper.
The industry is a huge supporter of sustainable forest management.
The European pulp and paper industry produces original bio-based products using wood, a renewable material. It is also the largest single industrial user and producer of renewable energy in Europe. The industry’s primary on-site energy source (not including bought-in electricity) is biomass at 55%, followed by gas at 28%. Only the remaining 17% is generated from fossil fuels and net bought electricity.
Biomass is biological material derived from living or recently living organisms. For the pulp and paper industry, this is typically wood by products, such as wood residue, bark, and ‘black liquor’, a derivative from the pulping process.
In 2019, 55% of fuels used in the pulp and paper industry came from biomass; a large amount of that is process residues.
Cepi, Key Statistics, 2020
Correctly managed, biomass is a sustainable fuel that can deliver a significant reduction in net carbon emissions when compared with fossil fuels.
Recycling is an extremely important part of the loop and allows paper to truly recognise its circular qualities. The European paper recycling rate is 74% and 83% of paper packaging is recycled. Recycled paper fibre is reused on average 3.8 times.
Improving recycling systems and collaboration throughout the supply chain is fundamental to the success of the circular economy of the future.