Myths about paper | Sappi

Paper, one of the few truly sustainable products that add value to our lives every day is recognised as climate friendly. Let's separate fact from fable as we bust some of the common myths about the paper industry. 


Paper Myth #01: Electronic communication is environmentally friendlier than print and paper

Paper Fact: Not necessarily, eMedia also has environmental impacts: eWaste is the fastest growing waste stream in South Africa. Using Google to make two internet searches, about the same amount of CO2 as boiling a kettle, is produced. 

Paper Myth #02: Recycled paper is always better than virgin paper

Paper Fact: Recycled paper is not suitable for all purposes and is not always the best choice of paper, which is why we produce a range of papers containing differing amounts of recycled and virgin fibre. By promoting recovery and recycled paper use, we:

  • Increase available fibre
  • Extend landfill lifespan
  • Reduce collection and disposal costs

Paper Myth #03: Using less paper saves trees

Paper Fact: You cannot save a tree. We plant trees, which, like any other crop, are harvested when ready. You might as well say that by not eating a tomato you save the tomato. We plant more trees than we harvest. 

Paper Myth #04: eMail messages like 'think before you print' or 'save a tree', or those urging you to have your statements eMailed rather than  posted to you, are based on concern for the environment

Paper Fact: eMailing statements and invoices saves the sender money and moves the burden of printing documents to the customer. The messages should rather say: 'don't waste energy by sending unnecessary eMails and 'please recycle all printed documents'. In South Africa, no trees are 'saved' by not using paper. Our trees are grown specifically to be harvested so that we can create valuable products from them. We replant harvested areas quickly.

Paper Myth #05: Making paper destroys forests

Paper Fact: Only 11% of the wood taken from the world's forests is used directly by the paper industry. In managed forests and plantations, more trees are planted or allowed to naturally regenerate than are harvested. By perpetuating the growth cycle, pulp and paper companies help maintain the world's forests and plantations. In South Africa, trees are grown in plantations, and just like any other crop, are meant to be harvested

Paper Myth #06: Much of a harvested tree does not end up as paper

Paper Fact: Almost nothing goes to waste. About 50% of a tree is water, which is used in the manufacturing process. Black liquor, consisting of lignin and other extractives release by the pulping process, is an environmentally friendly biofuel. The remaining fibre is wood pulp which is used to make paper. 

Paper Myth #07: Exotic plantation trees overtake the countryside

Paper Fact: Exotic species are not a problem if seeding into the local countryside is controlled. Exotic species found in the countryside are mostly a legacy of past practices by government, farmers and industry.

Paper Myth #08: Commercial plantations compromise biodiversity

Paper Fact: All human activity compromises biodiversity. About one third of the land we own or lease is managed to protect biodiversity. Plantations like other forms of agriculture are monocultures, but unlike most, we ensure that a variety of cultivars are grown on each plantation.

Paper Myth #09: Biomass and fossil-fuel energy have the same impact

Paper Fact: Biomass derived energy is fundamentally different from fossil fuel derived energy because burning biomass recycles carbon whereas fossil fuels introduce carbon that had previously been 'locked away'. Biomass is deemed 'carbon neutral'. 

Paper Myth #10: An A4 sheet of office paper has a significant water footprint

Paper Fact: A single sheet of our A4 office paper has a total water footprint of only 29 millilitres.