Paper Truths

Think you're pretty savvy when it comes to environmentally friendly paper options? Checkout Domtar's paper advocacy campaign, PaperBecause. I'm in the industry and like to think I'm pretty well versed when it comes to sustainability and paper, but I have to say I learned some things about the paper manufacturing process and sustainability that I didn't know before visiting this site. For example, which is better for the environment using paper with virgin fiber or recycled content? The answer isn't quite the no-brainer it seems.

According to "Virgin fiber harvested using recognized third-party certified sustainable forestry practices is as environmentally sound as the use of recycled fiber. While recycled paper does reduce waste paper going to landfill, paper’s full life cycle must be considered – not just the fiber source. Domtar favors the use of Life Cycle Management concepts to determine where and when it is appropriate to use recycled fiber in the papermaking process.

Recent peer-reviewed Life Cycle Management studies have demonstrated that the environmental benefits of recycled fiber in the production of business papers can vary greatly depending on the source of the paper being recycled, its prior destination (landfill or another use), and the facility where it is being recycled into new paper (trucking distances and the facilities’ impact on climate change).

There are intrinsic limitations to the use of recycled fiber that make the need for virgin fiber inevitable. These include the loss of yield and strength during the repulping and deinking processes, as well as increased yield loss as the fiber is recycled again and again. Generally, fiber can be recycled no more than five to seven times.

Domtar supports the collection and use of recycled fiber, especially in the case of certain ideally-suited paper applications, such as single use products (e.g. tissue), short-lived products (e.g. newsprint) or products that do not require high optical surface quality (e.g. containerboard, wallboard, etc.). Not all categories of paper can be recycled for use in printing and writing grades.

Both recycled and virgin fiber have their purpose and justification. The paper industry can use all of the recycled fiber available. But the recycled paper industry depends on virgin fiber. We’re all part of the same cycle."

That last sentence is the one to remember the next time your specifying paper - to see what's available in Life Cycle Managed papers by Domtar check out our eco-friendly paper guide.


  1. There is one other consideration: About 58% of paper (in the US) has been diverted from landfills and is put into the recycle stream.

    Of which about 98% of that gets shipped to Asia. Trucked, bundled, shipped, then trucked on the other end.

    I totally agree that recycled fiber should be used for bathroom paper, tissue, and paper towels. (one use)

    Then newsprint and other periodicals.

    Books, important periodicals should be printed on hemp paper (archival for 1500 years and easy to recycle, if that is the path)

    Domtar was making paper from wheat fiber a few years ago -- what happened to that?

  2. Domtar did produce a paper from baggase and hemp in the 90s. It was called - don't laugh - Weeds. It didn't sell well, was expensive, and poor quality. Hey - but the marketing was fun!

    Ag fibers can be used in some small scale operations, but are not optimal for today's printing and writing mills or applications. They are typically lower quality (optics, color reproduction), more expensive, and not scalable because of the feast or famine nature of ag fibers. Additionally, running ag fibers through kraft mills creates scaling and silica - not good for the equipment.

    It's tough for me to foresee them past "boutiquey" - if that's a word.

    The amount of collected fiber that is exported to China is 30%. I don't think the rest of Asia takes up the other 68%.

    Lastly, as long as the forests that are used for paper are well managed, there's nothing wrong with using trees for paper. We want forests to remain as forests. A recent report on certification from Dovetail Partners finds that North American forest cover has remained constant for over the past 100 years. The report is available here: /DovetailCertReport0310b.pdf

    Thanks for your post and comment.

    Lewis Fix