Q and A: Is the paper industry sustainable?
Forests are one of the few large-scale industrial systems that are both sustainable and a contributor to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Growing forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere
and through photosynthesis, convert it into a woody biomass of carbohydrates that remains stored in paper and wood products. A cubic meter of wood contains 210 kilos of atmospheric carbon.
Young, vigorously growing forests are more efficient at storing carbon than old forests because gross carbon storage eventually reaches a ceiling. After that, the amount stored is equal to the amount liberated in decomposition. Carbon bound in trees does not disappear once a tree is harvested, but continues to be stored until decomposition takes place.
Wood and paper are a renewable resource. The carbon cycle based on photosynthesis makes growing trees a natural cycle that benefits both climate and the environment. or up to 25% of the cost of manufacturing. As environmental awareness has increased, the paper industry has an added incentive besides cost reduction to become energy-efficient.
The pulp and paper industry is the single largest producer and user of biomass fuels. Wood residue, residue from forestry operations, bark, black liquor (a byproduct of the papermaking process) and production residue are all uses for fuel. About 50% of the total energy consumption of the pulp and paper industry comes from carbon dioxide-neutral biomass fuels.
The pulp and paper industry also uses cogeneration to conserve energy. Cogeneration, sometimes called combined heat and power (CHP), is the process of generating both electricity and useful heat from the waste energy of the papermaking process. Cogeneration is one of the most common forms of energy recycling.