The Paper Principle

The Paper Principle

Earlier this year, I produced a panel on the effects that magazine production has on the environment; we looked at conventional methods of production and compared them with sustainable manufacturing. The panel covered the entire cycle, from the importance of understanding the source of your paper through to the end life of your magazine.  Throughout the night, the names of publications that use some percentage of recycled paper content were mentioned with collective pride.  These titles were doing it, printing on recycled paper!  We all seem to agree that virgin paper is a no no, but what we didn't have enough time to explore, is why recycled paper manufacturing is so amazing and why we should get excited about it.  I call this The Paper Principle.

But first let's review the numbers:
12 billion magazines are published each year in the United States
using 63 million trees (that's more than one tree per second).
2/3 of these magazines never even get into readers hands, and are destroyed, not recycled.  80% of all discarded paper ends up in landfill and incinerators.

However, using recycled paper reduces: energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, wastewater, as well as diverting waste from the waste stream.
These facts are so significant that I wanted to see for myself how this was possible. Why would we be supporting industries that effectively damage the air we breath and the ecosystem we depend upon if there was a viable alternative?

Soon after the panel, I visited one family owned paper mill that was literally turning trash into a treasure, while boosting the local economy, keeping paper waste out of landfill, and cleaning the water in the process. Sounds like having the Midas Touch...of recycling!
The Myllykoski paper mill is an integrated pulping and paper manufacturing mill located just 12 miles outside of Chicago.  They pull 75% of their paper source from within 200 miles of the mill.  In order to understand what an extraordinary accomplishment this is, lets look at the facts more closely.  The paper from most magazines is sourced from overseas (a bulk of it from China) about 8,000 miles away. Shipping it here uses a lot of that non-renewable fossil fuel that we're all so hooked on, and is often made from raw materials sold from the USA to begin with, meaning the total travel distance is 16,000 miles.  

So how does Myllykoski do it?  

By de-inking and recycling old magazines and newspapers from the Chicago municipal waste system, and de-inking and recycling printers' waste, Myllykoski is able to recover tons of paper from the urban forest to feed their hungry paper mill; just imagine how much paper we could divert from the waste stream here in New York City!
Each paper type has a important role in making high-quality paper, and Larry Domark, who purchases all the fiber for Myllykoski's paper, broke it down for me.  The majority of the material comes from newspapers, magazines, and books, which provide the base for the new paper.  Then glossy magazines (which are generally made from virgin paper and are also heavily inked and thus more difficult to process) provide the rest of the body for the new material.  The remaining fiber is the chain of custody certified virgin pulp.  Myllykoski guarantees that none of the wood fiber they receive comes from endangered forests, and this contributes greatly to forest conservation. The right mix of these ingredients makes a beautiful bright paper, and Myllykoski is a significant producer of recycled coated papers used for magazines and catalogs.
De-inking and pulping are water intensive processes, and Myllykoski draws 90% of their water from their local waste treatment plant, greatly reducing their reliance on fresh water consumption. Because they use only 100% chlorine-free natural cleaning process to whiten their paper pulp, rather than chlorine bleach, they can exist near a densely populated city without massive toxic emissions.
After 8 hours of cleaning and filtering, the hot grey slurry is rolled onto screens and begins a journey across a series of 22 foot wide conveyor belts that move at 2800 feet per minute pressing the water from the mix, while strengthening and bonding the fibers into one continuous sheet of paper.  
Adam Stearns, who has been working with Myllykoski for 20 years, explains how important it is that the paper fibers not be broken throughout the long process, and that the state-of-the-art technology they use insures that a minimal amount of pulp is wasted along the way.  
So what is The Paper Principle?  
It is the idea that supporting the purchase of recycled paper, for both office use, and for the printing of your magazine, encourages the sustainable and business-friendly paper-to-paper industry, and thus it is the best way to operate business. It believes that bringing a recycling paper mill close to a publishing center (like New York City) would stimulate the local economy, and turn our paper waste stream into a healthy business.

Check out these amazing resources for more: The Magazine PAPER Project is there to assist your publisher; NRDC's Green Living Guide for useful tools; Painless Paper Cuts from Worldwatch Institute for history and more; ForestEthics takes action!

As always, let us know about other valuable resources.
Tune in next time when I'll post footage from SPD's GREEN PUBLISHING PANEL '08.

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