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The Final Word by Chuck Swann
The American Forest and Paper Association several years ago set six sustainability goals to be achieved by its member companies. Third on the list was the reduction of members' greenhouse gas emissions by at least 15% from 2005 to 2020. By the end of the year 2013, they were almost there, having achieved a reduction of 14.5%. Emissions were 0.709 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per ton of production, versus a goal of 0.704 tons.

AF&PA estimates that the carbon-neutral renewable energy generated by its member companies is equal to what would be derived from 200 million barrels of oil annually and thus avoids a large amount of fossil fuel-based emissions. Nearly all of this energy comes from biomass residuals left over from the various stages of forest products manufacturing. Diverting these residuals from landfills also curbs potential GHG emissions.

At pulp and paper mills, according to AF&PA, the emission rate expressed in terms of carbon dioxide equivalents per ton of production has been reduced by 55.8% since 1972, 23.1% since 2000, and 3.9% compared to 2010.

A recent study by the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, cited by AF&PA, shows that the GHG reduction benefits from using biomass residuals for energy by the forest product industry are equivalent to 218 million tons of CO2. This is comparable to removing about 40 million cars from the road.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air Act initiatives have been a focus of AF&PA's policy advocacy for several years. Some of the emission standards are still not final and may not be for several years. But AF&PA's members nonetheless, it said, are continuing to reduce their air emissions. In 2012, sulfur dioxide emissions were 27.4% lower than in 2008, due to changes in fuel mix and continuing technical improvement, and nitrous oxide emissions were 12.3% lower than in 2008.

Reducing members' GHG emissions is part of a global environmental effort and is closely related to other sustainability goals. For example, recovering paper for recycling keeps it out of landfills, where it releases GHGs when it decomposes. For another, improving energy efficiency leads to fewer GHG emissions resulting from the manufacturing process. For still another example, promotion of sustainable forestry can increase carbon storage in the managed forests that provide the raw materials for mills. In 20ll, US forests and wood products captured and stored an estimated 16% of all CO2 emitted by fossil fuel consumption in the USA.

Chuck Swann is the senior editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at chuck.swann@taii.com.

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