What is more sustainable than paper and print?

With publishers looking to reduce their carbon footprint, Denmaur’s Danny Doogan points out that paper is a renewable resource and highly recyclable.

By Danny Doogan

What is more sustainable than paper and print?
Photograph: Casey Horner on Unsplash

There aren’t many things that you can actually list. If you combine the look and feel you get from a printed product, along with how it increasingly interacts with digital media (QR codes and augmented reality, for example) and fulfils a requirement where sometimes digital cannot (GDPR), you will soon discover that in the world of media and communications, paper and print is eminently sustainable.

The raw material for paper originates from trees, trees harvested from sustainably certified managed forestry where the timber is primarily sourced for use in construction and furniture manufacture – paper fibre actually comes from the top part of a tree, almost as a by-product, where the timber is of the least value. Either way, all products that derive from a tree crop still retain the carbon that it absorbed in order to grow.

As trees reach maturity and become ready for harvest, their rate of carbon absorption significantly declines. Once trees have been felled, the sustainable management programme ensures that saplings are replanted to maintain forestry growth. Forestry management programmes are commonly FSC and PEFC certified, and these are the labels that can often be found in print to demonstrate the sustainability credentials of the stock paper that has been used.

In addition to raw material certification, the carbon footprint associated with the production and distribution of paper can be measured and, therefore, offset. Carbon offsetting is a process whereby an individual or company takes action to prevent the release of CO2 emissions elsewhere, or secures the absorption of atmospheric CO2 as part of a wider approach to measure, reduce and then offset their footprint through impactful conservation projects. Carbon Balancing, one of the more popular offsetting schemes within paper and print, is offered by the World Land Trust. It supports a REDD+ reforestation and conservation scheme that measurably offsets carbon emissions whilst protecting endangered species and biodiversity. With it, comes a logo that can be used on print and a certificate to endorse the emissions that have been reduced through Carbon Balancing.

In addition to being a renewable and offset-able resource, it is important to highlight that paper is highly recyclable – in fact, recycled papers feature quite prominently in the magazine sector, providing quite a powerful environmental message for publishers and readers. Paper (even when printed) can be recycled between six and eight times, and thereafter it has a commercial use in agriculture and horticulture as a natural soil additive.

Hence paper is truly circular: it comes from the ground; it enriches our lives in all sorts of ways as we use it; and then it returns to the ground to give nature a helping hand.

Paper (even when printed) can be recycled between six and eight times.

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Denmaur has been one of the established names in the print and publishing sectors since 1983. Today, Denmaur Paper Media has become one of the leading specialist paper suppliers in the UK, offering a comprehensive range of innovative and sustainable products to suit traditional and modern print processes.





This article was first published in the Publishing Partners Guide 2020, which was distributed with the January / February issue of InPublishing magazine.