By Jerry Schwartz
Senior Director, Energy & Environmental Policy
When people think of manufacturing paper and paper-based packaging, the natural resource that most easily comes to mind is trees--a renewable resource that is the raw material for these products. But another important natural resource that is integral to manufacturing these products is water, which also is an essential resource for the industry.
Water is the medium in which wood is prepared, refined, and transported through the processing steps, and it is essential for bonding fiber into a sheet of paper. Water is recycled and reused up to ten times throughout the paper mill process before being discharged for treatment and release back into the environment.
AF&PA’s Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 water goal is to reduce water use in members’ pulp and paper mills by 12 percent by 2020. In 2012 we were half way there—our members’ water use was reduced by 6 percent.
Like all of the Better Practices goals, we expect that each member will contribute toward making progress on this goal in a way that makes economic, social, and environmental sense for the company. Some companies will contribute more to progress on some goals than others. Given the site-specific nature of the impacts of water use, this is especially true with the water goal.
Worldwide, the environmental impacts of water use and the economic and social aspects of that use—both positive and negative—also are very site-specific. AF&PA shares the global concerns about water scarcity and access to potable water and impacts of water use and is an active participant in the global efforts underway to develop tools to address those impacts.