The Wonderful World of Forest Certification
ABOUT A year ago, one of my clients came to me and said he wanted me to help his company get FSC certified. My response was F-S—WHAT? That was the start of a journey that has led me to become somewhat of a specialist in the relatively new world—for printers at least—of sourcing from well-managed forests.
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, like many, I knew about recycled content, federal guidelines for its use, and a few other environmental paper-related preferences such as acid-free options. But I never gave much thought to virgin fiber or the forests from which they were sourced.
As you probably know, EPA guidelines for recycled paper state that for coated stock, the minimum is 10 percent post-consumer-waste (PCW, also termed post-consumer-recycled-fiber or PCRF) and 30 percent for uncoated. All federally-funded projects are mandated to adhere to these minimum standards, and many in-plants, both in the public and private sectors, have adopted them as well.
The natural question has now come up: if only 10 or 30 percent of what’s called “recycled paper” is actually made from recycled material, then where does the rest of the fiber come from? In most cases, the answer is from virgin timber and the forests in which they’re grown.
Here are a few facts to consider:
• The available supply of recycled fiber, both pre- and post-consumer waste, equals only about 35 percent of the total demand for paper production in the U.S. More than half of this goes into corrugated paperboard/boxes.
• Virgin fiber for paper represents 25 percent of all timber harvested in North America. (Worldwide about 40 percent of all commercially traded timber is used for paper production.)
• The U.S. produces more than 90 million tons of paper annually. My brain always converts tons into pallets of paper as a benchmark. That’s equivalent to more than 50 square miles of pallets.
Vic Nathan Barkin has more than 35 years of experience in the printing, paper and wood products industries and currently owns a consulting practice specializing in business development, workflow, and technology implementation, focusing on “Green Procurement and Production” practices. Vic is a QMS Lead Auditor certified to ISO 9001:2008 standards, is a consultant for the Rainforest Alliance as an FSC Chain of Custody and Controlled Wood senior auditor, is an FSC, SFI and PEFC lead auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers and SGS North America, and has engaged in more than 700 site assessments and audits.