The circular economy is a system focused on recycling, renewing and reusing resources.
Every time a person uses a paper bag or opts for a product with paper packaging, he is playing an important role in this type of economy, as products made from paper come from trees, a renewable natural resource. The paper industry plants almost twice as much wood as is harvested each year, and as a result, there are now 20% more trees in North America than 50 years ago.
“The really cool thing about trees is that there are many ways to regenerate and start over – a new forest,” says Alex Singleton, a fiber specialist in Georgia. “With other resources, you can’t do that.”
Although the paper is naturally sustainable, the industry invests to ensure that human impact on the environment is minimized. Senior geospatial analyst at a major pulp and paper maker, Jacob Cude, visualizes the Earth with satellite technology to help coordinate harvesting, replanting and habitat plans to ensure that forests are preserved.
“This science, this technology, these data sets allow our industry to quantify how much forest resource is out there, and how much we’re impacting the forest resource at scale around our mills,” Cude says. “It helps us make a decision about how we can effectively use the wood that’s out there.”
After harvesting, the paper industry uses each part of the tree. About two thirds of the energy used by leading mills comes from renewable biomass energy, such as leaves and bark.
Another important aspect of the circular economy is recycling. Paper is one of the most recycled materials in the U.S. and the paper industry wants to ensure that the recycling rate continues to grow, as paper fibers can be recycled five to seven times.
Even at the end of its life cycle, paper degrades smoothly and returns to the earth, unlike non-biodegradable packaging, in addition to being compostable.
When a person chooses to use a paper product, he is automatically contributing to that legacy.