Letter: Paper industry can do better

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Paper industry can do better

Sir: Richard North ("Greenpeace, please grow up!", 26 September) referred to a report on the pulp and paper industry by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). While we welcome Mr North's praise of our report Towards a Sustainable Paper Cycle, we need to clarify certain points.

Richard North implies that IIED has given a blanket seal of approval to the paper industry, which he considers to be "more or less on track" with respect to environmental performance. In fact, our report singles out a number of areas where industry is clearly not on track.

For example, the report finds that paper is a net contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, despite industry claims of the carbon uptake potential of plantations. This is mainly due to high energy consumption in processing and methane emissions from paper that is landfilled.

The report also finds that industry environmental performance is highly variable, with unacceptable levels of emissions from some plants in all major producer countries.

The report advocates independent (third-party) certification of paper products and is supportive of eco-labelling initiatives, whereas much of the industry has traditionally been hostile to these approaches or insisted on purely voluntary self-monitoring.

Our report concludes that there is very little evidence of difference, in terms of environmental impact, between elemental chlorine-free (ECF) and totally chlorine-free (TCF) bleaching. However we do oppose the use of elemental chlorine, a traditional bleaching agent.

And on the morally contested issue of paper consumption, we argue that industry should respond to consumer concerns about waste and should rethink what paper use is actually for, moving towards a service-oriented approach targeted at meeting needs.

Finally, with respect to sources of funding for the study, your readers may be interested to know that over 40 per cent of the research budget came from non-industry sources, including the European Commission and the International Finance Corporation (a United Nations agency). Additional funding was raised by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

RICHARD SANDBROOK

Executive Director, IIED

London WC1

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