Paper has unique sustainable qualities

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Paper has unique sustainable qualities

Concerns have been raised over the environmental impacts of paper receipts, including greenhouse gases emitted and the amount of water consumed in the manufacturing process.

All products and industries have an environmental impact but a look at the facts shows that paper can be a sustainable and environmentally-sound choice.

Consumer surveys conducted in the U.S. and the UK in June 2016 have shown that 91% (U.S.) and 89% (UK) of consumers agree that, when responsibly produced, used and recycled, print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate.1

The print and paper industry is one of the lowest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for only 1% of global CO2 emissions.

– Ecofys, 2017

Pulp and paper mills use a high portion of renewable energy, biomass [waste wood] from their manufacturing operations, to produce bioenergy. By investing in new technologies, forest industry operations have also become more energy-efficient.

Over 58% of the European paper industry’s electricity is produced on-site, of which more than 96% is generated through highly efficient combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants.2

In 2016, carbon-neutral biomass and renewable fuels provided, on average, about 66.6% of the American Forest & Paper Association member facility energy needs.3 This use of renewable energy results in avoiding about 181 million metric tons of CO2e, equivalent to removing about 35 million cars from the road.4

In Canada, the forest products industry has cut its total energy use by 31% and reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 49% between 2005 and 2015.5

Relative to other materials such as aluminium, steel, plastic and food, the water footprint of the wood products industry is small.6 Improved technology and innovation enable the water used by pulp and paper mills to be reused and recycled at least 10 times in various mill processes and wastewater treatment facilities. This has increased water use efficiency and reduced the amount of water used by many mills.

In the U.S., 88% of the water used for production of paper and wood products is returned to the environment after treatment in primary and secondary wastewater treatment systems and paper mill water use per ton of product decreased by over 6% between 2005 and 2016.7 Over the past two decades, pulp and paper mills in the EU have been reducing their intake of freshwater dramatically, by 47% per cubic metre per tonne of product.

The Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations in Canada oversee the discharge of harmful substances from pulp and paper mills into water frequented by fish. Since 1985, the quality of pulp and paper effluent released directly to the environment has improved considerably with respect to toxicity tests on fish, biochemical oxygen demand, and total suspended solids, respectively.8

  1. Toluna and Two Sides, 2016. The Attractiveness and Sustainability of Print and Paper – US and UK reports.
  2. CEPI, 2017. Key Statistics.
  3. AF&PA, 2018. Sustainability Report. https://sustainability.afandpa. org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018SustainabilityReport_PAGES. pdf
  4. AF&PA, 2019.
  5. NRCAN, 2018. How is the forest industry changing?
  6. Ecofys, 2017.
  7. AF&PA, 2017. environmental/
  8. Environment and Climate Change Canada, 2016. Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Managing Pulp and Paper Effluent Quality in Canada. Available at:

Learn More

Facts Booklet

The facts booklet explores many key topics surrounding paper receipts and paper in general.

Fact Sheets

A comprehensive analysis of some of the key questions asked about paper receipts.

Consumer Report

An international survey revealed many insightful facts about the consumer’s view of paper receipts.