Working Partner Update: Environmental Paper Network

Date: 4 May 2018 | posted in: waste - zero waste, Waste to Wealth | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

The State of the Global Paper Industry: Shifting Seas – New Challenges and Opportunities for Forests, People and the Climate  is a civil society review of the social and environmental performance of the paper industry. The 2018 report’s assessment is structured according to the goals of the EPN’s Global Paper Vision, informing on trends in consumption, recycled content, social responsibility, responsible virgin fibre sourcing, greenhouse gas emissions, clean production and transparency. Key findings include:

  • Paper consumption is at unsustainable levels, particularly in North America (215 kg/person) and Europe (125 kg/person). Globally, it is steadily increasing, particularly in Asia (44 kg/person), while remaining at unequal levels of access in some parts of the world, particularly Africa (7 kg/person).
  • Global paper production is shifting geographically, with Asia now providing nearly 50% of the world’s pulp and paper, amidst declines in North America and Europe. Recycled fibre content could rapidly reduce the industry’s environmentally damaging production footprint, providing paper’s benefits more equitably while preserving environmental quality, but a large percentage of paper production still uses no recycled content at all.
  • Increasing production in response to new market demand is driving development of new virgin-fibre pulp mills, especially in Asia, Africa and South America. A new live online map is revealed as a resource to help track the expansion and the proximity of mills to Intact Forest Landscapes.
  • Expansion is resulting in numerous social conflicts in many nations including Brazil, Indonesia, Canada, India, Chile and Mozambique.
  • The industry has substantial climate change impacts and critical opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through better land management and fibre choices, opportunities that urgently need to be seized.
  • Corporate social responsibility commitments and purchasing policies have continued to proliferate and have helped to drive some specific social and environmental improvements ‘on-the-ground,’ but execution, transparency and progress on many voluntary commitments is lagging.
  • There are significant gaps in data availability globally, between regions, and across topics, and challenges in comparing data due to lack of standardisation.

The State of the Paper Industry series is a comprehensive resource for conservation organisations, decision-makers, researchers, journalists, investors, educators, paper purchasers and the industry to track performance, progress and global trends on social and environmental issues. Previous editions were published in 2007 and in 2011. Unlike the 2018 report, they were primarily focused on the North American paper industry.

For a history of the development of EPN into a global network of over 140 organizations focused on social justice and conservation within the expanding forest, pulp and paper industry, see

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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.