The Increasingly Green Paper Trail
One year ago, almost to the day, TM Tipline published a Q&A entitled “Derek Smith on Direct Mail and the Environment.” As a former CEO of a major paper, printing and packaging group in South Africa and now a Washington, D.C.-based consultant whose mission is to bring environmental reform to the paper, printing and graphic design industries (http://www.paperleadership.com), Smith noted some improvement in the industry’s environmental performance, but was also painfully aware that much work remained to be done.
Here’s an update, with some growing problems alongside some signs of hope.
Old Problems in Some New Places
The nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council’s Web site states that the some paper manufacturers continue to raze old-growth forests, pollute waterways and destroy precious wildlife habitats. Paper products are the single largest component of the garbage that goes into landfills and incinerators. And the paper industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global-warming pollution. On the other edge of this sword is the fact that old-growth forests act as a giant sponge for this pollution.
Meanwhile, an investigative piece entitled “Forests Destroyed in China’s Race to Feed Global Wood-Processing Industry,” published by The Washington Post on April 1, 2007 (which we wish was an April’s Fool joke), unveiled details about the international paper industry that makes the controversial, and often bloody, diamond trade—brought to the public’s attention by the 2006 film “Blood Diamond”—look tame by comparison.
In virgin forests from the Russian East and Siberia to the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Africa, to the better-profiled regions of the Amazon, loggers harvest millions of trees in excess of legal limits and stream them toward Chinese factories, which spit out paper, eventually ending up in our offices and houses, all bought by merchants and shoppers with little idea of the product’s origins, or especially of the enormous environmental cost to get it here.