How much carbon does recycled paper save?

Sensemaking / How much carbon does recycled paper save?

A new calculator can tell you exactly what difference it makes to use recycled paper instead of virgin fibre for a particular print run.

01 Dec 2011

A new calculator can tell you exactly what difference it makes to use recycled paper instead of virgin fibre for a particular print run.

Over 80% of UK companies now have a corporate social responsibility strategy, according to research by Future Thinking on behalf of Arjowiggins Graphic, a leading manufacturer of environmental papers. So, it’s fair to say that most want to do the right thing. Understandably, most want to be seen to be doing the right thing, too. This is particularly true when it comes to sustainable procurement. With today’s long supply chains, though, it can be hard enough at the best of times ensuring that your suppliers meet demanding environmental and social criteria. Demonstrating to the outside world that they’ve done so can be harder still.

It doesn’t help that many good acquisitions go unnoticed. Take recycled paper. Once upon a time, you could tell it at a glance – that off-white colour and textured appearance. Now, corporates can opt for recycled paper that’s whiter than white, and often they do – for their annual reports or direct mail. For companies seeking to wear their green credentials on their sleeve, ‘natural’ shades still prove popular. Of course, it’s great that the more sustainable option can match the best when it comes to quality. But it can also be a wasted opportunity: the fact that it is recycled may be missed; the merits of this choice over virgin paper may not be taken on board; the procurement manager may never get that green trophy...

“It’s such a good idea: a simple label showing how many resources are saved by using recycled paper"

Which is why a label displaying the benefits of choosing recycled over virgin is such a good idea. The Environmental Benefit Statement (EBS) tells you just how much wood, electricity, water and CO2 were saved, and how much waste diverted from landfill, thanks to producing a given publication on recycled stock.

The EBS is the result of a free, easy to use online environmental calculator developed by Arjowiggins Graphic. You enter the number of pages, size, paper type and print run, and it automatically calculates the various environmental savings. This information is developed into a statement that can be any shape or style you like, and is then shared as a PDF for inclusion in your own designs.

“The EBS is fantastic because it shows exactly how you are helping to reduce environmental impact”, says Veronica Ferguson of Heedi Graphic Design. “And you can produce it so quickly.”

It was seeing the savings their own paper mill was making that prompted Arjowiggins Graphic to get their calculators out. “We wanted to measure our own impact and to see how our recycled papers compared to the European average for virgin fibre pulp”, explains Sustainable Development Manager, Gilles Lhermitte.

For instance, to calculate the amount of waste saved by using recycled papers, the volume of waste paper (which would have otherwise been sent to landfill or incineration) is compared to the 800kg of fibres (on average) that make up each tonne of virgin fibre paper. Arjowiggins Graphic worked alongside the Carbon Neutral Company to provide a credible and accurate assessment of CO2 savings.

The data did what was expected, offering the company valuable insights into its own savings. But it also promised to do much more. It struck a chord with many of Arjowiggins’ customers, who were looking for a way to trumpet their green endeavours. It’s not just a vain boast: experts on behaviour change agree that a public commitment is much more likely to result in a lasting shift [see 'Winning the persuasion game'].

And so the EBS was born, combining the online data-crunching tool with a statement that customers could wear on their sleeve. “At first we tested it with a sample of clients, but demand grew rapidly and so we made it available to everyone through our website”, says Shannan Hodgson, Corporate Affairs Manager at Arjowiggins Graphic, who was responsible for developing the EBS for the UK.

The Arjowiggins Graphic website now includes a running total of the savings that have been made in the UK since January 2010 by choosing to print on its recycled papers. To date, these amount to:

  • 115,718,665kg of waste diverted from landfill
  • 2,386,333,000 litres of water
  • 321,401,099kWh of electricity
  • 29,922,292kg of CO2
  • 213,730,657kg of wood.

Now surely that’s something to pin to the mast?

Arjowiggins Graphic is a Forum for the Future partner.

Take a look at the Green Futures' EBS for our October issue:

Green Futures' EBS

Photo: Arjowiggins

What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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