We know that the world’s growing population is putting increasing pressure on global resources and that the world’s current consumption patterns are simply not sustainable in the longer term. As the world’s finite supply of fossil fuels diminishes, in direct contrast to the increasing demands of a larger population, we will need to move to a circular economy based on renewable resources and optimum efficiency. In contrast to the linear model of take, make, dispose, a circular economy is a framework that takes insights from living systems. It considers that our systems should work like organisms, processing nutrients that can be fed back into the cycle, whether biological or technical, which is where phrases such as “closed loop” or “regenerative” come in.
It’s also why we believe Europe’s paper industry has a very bright future – because it is already a benchmark model of resource efficiency and a perfect fit for the circular economy. It is inherently sustainable by nature: Based on renewable, recyclable raw materials, Europe’s paper industry can produce second-generation biofuels to replace crude oil as well as renewable bio-based products. It provides packaging solutions to avoid food waste and it uses residues from the woodworking industry as its raw materials. These are just a few examples, you’ll find many more in the pages provided in this folder.
At the core of the bio-economy
The European paper industry is at the core of the bio-based economy because everything it produces comes from forest fibres, a primary, renewable resource. It takes all the components in wood and transforms them into value-added bio-based products. And that doesn’t just mean pulp and paper: Through the bio-refinery concept, a paper mill is much more than the sum of its parts, making a vast range of innovative products. While wood fibre is used to make pulp, resins can be turned into chemicals and bark into renewable energy. Excess electricity is often sold to the grid or process steam pumped to heat nearby homes. By getting the most that it can from its production process based on renewable resources, Europe’s paper industry provides the ideal path from a fossil-based to a bio-economy.
Living the circular economy
Once the paper has served its purpose, the industry recycles that paper to make something new, which makes a lot more sense than burning it or sending it to landfill as waste. Along the way, it creates additional products from the residues of the recycling process, adding value and innovation. Old paper cannot be recycled indefinitely - it needs an influx of new wood fibres to keep going otherwise the fibres wouldn’t be strong enough to make new products. Those new fibres come from renewable, sustainably-managed forests, continuing the loop.
CEPI has just published a folder on resource efficiency in the pulp and paper industry. You can download the full publication here.
On the thematic pages included in this folder you’ll find lots of examples of how the pulp and paper industry is already living the circular economy. The 7 themes that compose the publication are listed and can be downloaded separately:
European Commission useful websites on resource efficiency:
Online Resource Efficiency Platform (OREP): A website that aims to bring together business, scientists, NGOs, local and national authorities and other interested stakeholders. Here you can read about the latest developments, ideas, findings and views. It includes an interactive library and a section explaining the targets and indicators.
A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative of the Europe 2020 Strategy: This website provides key documents and proposal on the European Commission's flagship initiative for a resource-efficient Europe.
For more information on resource efficiency and the European paper industry, please contact CEPI Senior Raw Materials manager Ulrich Leberle at email@example.com.