News - How the print industry became greener than ever

The impact of climate change has meant that sustainability has become a central focus for individuals and businesses now more than ever. When it comes to print, this translates into an increased demand for recycled, recyclable and carbon neutral papers, or suppliers who put sustainability high on the agenda. One of Walstead’s main paper suppliers is UPM,  a global industry player that produces everything from speciality and communication papers to biofuels, timber, plywood, pulp and raflatac (labelling materials). Colin Fletcher, technical manager at UPM’s Caledonia Mill in Scotland outlines the company’s green credentials. ‘We use absolutely everything we can possibly take from a renewable resource, which is a tree, and all the trees we use are farmed. All our forests are fully certified FSC/PEFC.’

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), non-governmental organisations that work to promote sustainable forest management, allow businesses to invest in companies or products that contribute to a greener supply chain. Colin continues, ‘Caledonian do not own any forestry directly, we link in with the Forestry Commission, private landowners etc and we only buy from people who have these certifications. So, within UPM, across the globe, everywhere we exist, we know where the wood is harvested. That’s a critical path for UPM.’

The company has also invested over €1 billion in the generation of CO2 neutral energy in the last 10 years and has reduced energy consumption by 14% per tonne of paper per year for the last ten years, with aims to lower this figure further year on year. With over 3 million tonnes of recovered paper used by UPM per year, its commitment is clear. ‘We’re the highest users of recycled fibre in magazine grades,’ says Fletcher. ‘So we are recyclers and we are base producers. We have a huge impact, [but] it’s how we work with that impact.’ UPM has done this in a variety of different areas, by utilising energies produced from biomass and renewable energy in addition to spearheading carbon-offsetting services for businesses keen to go one step further in their sustainability journey. UPM produces 30% of Finland’s renewable energy alone and is the second largest producer of biomass-based energy in Europe, using over 50% renewable energy at the Caledonia mill in Scotland.

Its carbon offsetting scheme has two options, UPM CO2 ACT which offsets the emissions related to the production and transport of paper and UPM CO2 ACT+ which offsets the total carbon emissions of the end-product paper. Both options lend support to projects including the provision of ceramic water purifiers to homes in Cambodia. These filters ensure that families no longer have to boil their water to make sure it’s safe, which in turn reduces indoor air pollution from wood burning. All of these initiatives will help UPM achieve its goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 65% by 2030.

Julian Townsend from Denmaur, another key Walstead paper supplier, agrees that carbon offsetting is a popular and valuable industry trend. ‘If you’re a big PLC, a bank, an insurer, a charity, an institution, they’ve got a real problem improving their carbon strategy for the future. Generally speaking, big organisations favour paper because it’s non fossil-based. We carbon balance paper with the World Land Trust. Paper is still going to be a green option for some time.’

Love Paper is another organisation promoting the use of paper. They state, ‘There aren’t many industries that can aspire to become genuinely sustainable. The paper industry, however, is one of them’. To find out how your business can use paper to craft a more sustainable future, visit the Love Paper website here.

Another area of concern for many brands and businesses has been plastic packaging and a keenness to implement reductions in its use. Many magazines and catalogues are now replacing polybag packaging with paper wrap as a result. The EU has recently implemented a tax on plastic packaging which has encouraged a movement towards banning single-use plastic items and the adoption of paper alternatives, which benefit both the environment and the print industry. A host of Walstead titles have transitioned to paper wrap in recent years, with 2020 seeing new heights of success for paper wrap, so if your brand is considering a move, get in touch. Walstead works with WestColour who paper wrapped 51 million packs in 2020, all of which were formerly in plastic packaging. Paper belly bands are also being used to package the Sunday supplements, with further novel concepts in paper packaging being developed as we speak.

Where you source your paper is also something businesses need to seriously consider. Julian Townsend continues, ‘With the environment, it really isn’t wise to be sending Norwegian paper to America [for example]. It makes a lot of sense to bring it back to the regions for the sake of carbon footprint and paper miles. There’s a definite advantage. If you think that the price of newsprint is in the threes roughly, to bring that from Scandinavia or Central Europe when you’ve got a manufacturer here, it’s more efficient to get it locally.’

Overall, print remains an incredibly eco-friendly choice, with a low end-to-end carbon footprint and byproducts that can be used to create renewable energy. Compared to, say the electronics industry which generates 50 million tonnes of e-waste every year and is under pressure to create a circular economy, paper is easily recyclable and remains a genuinely sustainable choice. The European Paper Recycling Council had a commitment to a 74% paper recycling rate in 2020, with figures indicating a likelihood of reaching this figure, especially given the 72% recycling rate in 2019. With paper, there is no confusion about whether it can be recycled – it’s easy and simple for the consumer to do, safe in the knowledge that this is making a real difference to the planet.

Julian Townsend continues, ‘There’s going to be paper for hundreds of years because it’s natural, it’s relatively environmentally sound and it’s easily recyclable. You can recycle paper five or six times, just mash it up and use it again. Recycled paper is always going to have a place because, as you make higher grades of paper and it’s turned into waste, you can make lower grades of paper. So if you’ve ever got a newspaper, on the back it will show you the average of recycled content in the UK. Newspapers are currently running at something like 86% recycled, so they use hardly any virgin fibre at all. The biggest fundamental at the moment, with the stay at home restrictions, is that you’re losing the waste because you haven’t got the Metro, you haven’t got the Evening Standard, or Stylist so the cost of recycled pulp has increased by about 15% because we’re just not creating the waste. But there will always be waste in papers. Recycled paper will always be competitive in that text paper market because there’s waste out there normally, a hell of a lot of paper waste. We need to do something with it and recycling it is a perfect solution.’ 

Walstead is committed to doing its part to protect the environment, by working with suppliers such as UPM and Denmaur, providing paper wrap options for magazines, recycling scrap paper and pulp and assisting our clients in producing campaigns which satisfy Royal Mail’s criteria for Sustainable Advertising Mail (and, in turn, saving them money). Speak to Walstead to find out more about how we can help your brand reach its sustainability goals.