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In today's information age paper continues to be the main tool for spreading information, culture and knowledge. Far from being threatened by the arrival of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs), paper has become an indispensable complement to them.
Paper is a natural product, manufactured from a natural and renewable raw material, wood. Pulp - the basic ingredient for the manufacture of paper and board - is produced from fresh wood, woodchips from sawmills, recovered paper and sometimes even from textiles agricultural by products or industrial crops.
The pulp, paper and board is a necessity for almost all forms of activity, such as in communications and advertising (newspapers, magazines, directories), education (books, writing paper, etc.), business (security papers, forms, labels, copy paper), commerce (bank notes, cheques, postage stamps), culture (photography, art-work), hygiene (kitchen rolls, napkins, diapers), medicine (dressings, swabs), food and beverage packaging (coffee filters, paper crockery & cutlery, liquid carton board, folding box-board), transport and protection (tachographs, bags, sacks, paperboard packaging).
The use of recycled fibre has been growing steadily since 1984 and today stands at a figure of around 50% (the recycling rate is calculated on the basis of recovered paper used in recycling compared to total paper consumption) of the fibre mass used in paper production.
Graphic paper grades make up around 50% of the EU's paper production, packaging paper grades account for 40% and hygiene and specialty papers for around 10%. The European industry consists of more than 1,000 paper mills and 220 pulp mills with Germany leading the field as the largest paper producer in the EU, followed by Finland, Sweden and France. Finland and Sweden are the main pulp-producing countries.
With all the benefits of a sustainable and expanding raw material base and efficient use of advanced technology, a paper product's environmental profile is interesting from the lifecycle point of view.
A renewable raw material: more trees are planted in Europe every year than are felled Maximising resource use: pulp production makes use of wood residues that would otherwise go to waste Leading the field in recycling: almost half of production today is from recycled fibres and every year the proportion grows Non-polluting: even when not recovered, paper is rapidly biodegradable and does not pollute the environment The paper and board industry's raw material mix has developed constantly towards a more intensive use of recovered fibre. This has been possible due to more efficient collection activity and to development in process technologies. However, all the pulp, paper and board products cannot be produced from recovered fibres due to technical, environmental or health requirements.
The process developments have allowed a continuous improvement in raw material and energy efficiency and contributed to decreased emissions levels.
A particularity of the EU pulp, paper and board industry is their today prominent use of energy from renewable energy sources. In 2000 biomass energy corresponded to half of the thermal energy and electricity consumption in these industries.
Around 60% of the pulp and paper produced in Europe comes from mills certified in one of the major eco-management schemes. This figure will continue to increase as more mills apply for such a scheme in the near future. Recovered paper forms more than 40% of the raw materials used in paper production in Europe with the packaging sector the biggest consumer. Newsprint, sanitary and household papers, are also largely based on recovered paper. However, printing and writing papers - which represent 40% of total paper and board production - mostly rely on virgin fibres. Levels of paper recycling are increasing at European level, however performance varies greatly from one country to another due to differences in market and industry structures, population density, education, transportation distances, etc.
The European paper industry is fully committed to increasing recycling. It is a matter of finding the optimum level from both an economic and environmental point of view. For this reason, the European paper industry (CEPI) together the European Recovered Paper Association launched the European Declaration on paper recovery with the support of other organisations from the paper chain
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