Recycling paper is a great way to reduce our environmental footprint – but how we put that fiber to use is not a simple one-size-fits-all solution. For decades, recycled content was the “go-to” attribute for making environmentally preferable materials — in both paper and other industries. It seems intuitive that if recycling is good for the environment, then using recycled fiber must also be good. And if a little bit of something is good, then more must be better. However, as the science of sustainability has matured, we have come to view issues more holistically — to approach complex concepts with systems thinking.
We’ve learned that what’s in your paper is only part of the picture. Responsible sourcing of materials is critical, but we must also consider the environmental impacts of manufacturing — including those associated with processing recovered paper.
We need to be responsible and follow the science and put recovered fiber to its best use. In fact, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued environmental marketing guidance, stating that “Claiming ‘Green, made with recycled content’ may be deceptive if the environmental costs of using recycled content outweigh the environmental benefits of using it.” As an example, our own cradle to gate analysis has shown that adding 10% post-consumer recycled fiber to products made at our Somerset Mill increases the carbon footprint by 16%.