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Paper Companies to Cut GHGs 15% by 2020, Raise Recycling to 70%

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) has announced goals to increase the paper recycling rate to over 70 percent and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 15 percent by 2020, in what the group calls the most extensive set of goals of any manufacturing industry in the U.S.

The new strategy, entitled Better Practices, Better Planet 2020, sets five major goals for the year 2020:

  • Increase the paper recovery for recycling rate to exceed 70 percent
  • Improve the industry’s energy efficiency in purchased energy use by at least ten percent
  • Reduce the intensity of the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 15 percent
  • A vision for the industry of zero injuries, and progressing toward that vision by further improving its safety incidence rate by 25 percent by 2020
  • Increase the amount of fiber procured from certified forest lands or through certified fiber sourcing programs in the U.S. by 2020, and work with governments, industry and other stakeholders to promote policies around the globe to reduce illegal logging.

AF&PA and its member companies will be accountable for meeting these goals, with progress presented in an annual report on paper recovery and a biennial Sustainability Report, the association said.

The association said that in addition to these goals, it is committing to explore opportunities to reduce water consumption, and will determine whether to set a specific goal for water use.

The association’s members make more than 75 percent of the U.S.’s pulp, paper, paper-based packaging and wood building materials, the AF&PA says. Member companies include Georgia-Pacific, International Paper Company, Domtar Corporation and MWV.

The Dogwood Alliance said that the strategy includes some positive steps, but falls short on many counts. In particular, the alliance said, “AF&PA continues to support the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), which allows large-scale clearcutting, the conversion of natural forests to plantations, the use of toxic chemicals and GE trees, and the logging of endangered forests.”

This week the non-profit ForestEthics announced that companies including Aetna, Allstate and Symantec had agreed to stop using the SFI eco-label. The SFI responded, “ForestEthics continues to peddle pulp fiction about the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, repeating the same old inaccurate and misleading information.”

The Environmental Paper Network said the AF&PA goals are a good start, but incomplete. “EPN applauds AF&PA for seeking to increase its energy efficiency, decrease greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and reduce OSHA recordable safety incidents,” director Joshua Martin said. “EPN also looks forward to working together to achieve progress on the common goal of increasing paper recovery.

“However, the goals are incomplete in addressing the full scope of the industry’s massive footprint and are a missed opportunity for decisive leadership in the global marketplace and in the fight against climate change.  It is surprising that there are no specific goals or plans related to water quality or air quality… And these goals will mean very little for forest conservation and biodiversity in our woods if they result in merely expanding certification by the less credible Sustainable Forestry Initiative,” Martin said.

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