Fresh or recycled fibre, either-or? The answer is both!

Have you ever wondered if it is more sustainable to use paper products made from fresh or recycled fiber? It is a fair question to ask, but a question that cannot be answered with either-or.

With their latest Facts & Trends report, the WBCSD Forest Solutions Group demonstrates the complementarity of fresh and recycled fibre for the sustainable supply of renewable raw material and products, outlining the environmental tradeoffs between choosing between fresh and recycled fibre and emphasising how to maximise the value of each harvested tree.

Why is fresh and recycled fibre complementary?
Fresh and recycled fibre are part of single-integrated wood fibre system – without fresh fibre, we would have no recycled fibre available. Furthermore, fibres cannot be recycled forever: there are limits to the amounts of used paper and paperboard that can be recovered, fibre is lost during the recovery and recycling process, and the fibre eventually degrades with multiple uses.

With over 50% of papermaking fibre coming from recycled fibre, quite simply market demands for paper and paperboard products cannot be met without both fresh and recycled fibre. In developed countries, for instance, the recovery of paper and paperboard is approaching the maximum that can be practically achieved.

Ensuring sustainability
With the need for fresh fibre set to continue, the report highlights the significant benefit of certification of this material, providing information about the forests from which the fibre originated. By purchasing raw materials certified to a credible certification system, such as PEFC’s, companies can be assured that the environmental and social attributes of the fibre used in the end product have been independently assessed and verified.

Final thoughts
Demand for wood and fibre is expected to increase for the foreseeable future. Using natural resources responsibly and transparently is vital to help meet this demand. Recovery and recycling is an integral part of using resources efficiently, reducing consumption footprints, providing sustainable products and thereby contributing to creating more sustainable lifestyles.

Forests provide us with a renewable and highly recyclable raw material – wood. Fibre obtained from wood is used to make paper and other products. Given resource constraints, the recovery and recycling of wood and paper products are essential to make a resource-efficient, quasi-circular economy a reality.

Developed by the WBCSD Forest Solutions Group with extensive technical support from the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), it supports the ongoing dialogue with major users of forest-based products, particularly consumer-goods manufacturers, WBCSD members and other forest-focused stakeholders in government, civil society and business. It complements the WRI & WBCSD Sustainable Procurement Guide for Wood- and Paper-Based Products.

About WBCSD’s Forest Solutions Group
The WBCSD Forest Solutions Group’s (FSG) brings together global companies representing about 35% of forest, paper and packaging sales worldwide. The FSG is a global platform for strategic collaboration among value chain partners. It aims to bring more of the world’s forests under sustainable management and expand markets for responsible forest products.