From forest to fiber for a low-carbon society
Responsibly managed forests are an effective and sustainable way to use land. They play a vital part in solving many global challenges by
- Providing natural resources for a low-carbon circular bioeconomy
- Maintaining biodiversity
- Mitigating climate change binding CO2 from the atmosphere and replacing fossil resources
- Securing clean water
- Improving wellbeing and quality of everyday life for people
Natural and planted forests occupy less than 30% of Earth’s surface and play a key role in supplying products vital for people’s everyday life; they generate a market of close to USD400 billion worldwide and more than 60 million direct and indirect jobs.
There are 4,1 billion hectares of forests in the world (FAO, 2020). 93% of this area is composed of natural forests and 7% is planted for productive purposes. There are 278 million hectares of planted forests in the world. While taking up <7% of the world’s total forest area, they provide about 50% of all wood raw material for industrial purposes. The intensification of planted forest production, along with sustainable management of natural forests, plays a significant role in the protection and conservation of natural ecosystems.
Growing forests in Europe
According to figures from the Forest and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nation (FAO) between 2005 and 2015, European forests grew by more than 44,000 km2 – an area bigger than Switzerland – this amounts to over 1,500 football pitches of forest growth every day! Today, European forests stand 30% larger in area than they did in the 1950s.
In Europe, the use of forests is also subject to stringent legislation and wood comes from well-managed forests where the cycle of natural regeneration, planting, growing and logging is carefully controlled.
Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) is driving Europe’s forest growth. The industry has also invested in the use of forest certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification™ (PEFC) and further voluntary schemes.
EPIS participates as an international stakeholder member in both FSC and PEFC.
The market pulp producers committed early on to sourcing wood from sustainably managed forests. It means the following:
- The origin of wood is always known
- All wood is legally logged
- 100%* FSC® controlled wood and PEFC™ controlled sources
- Harvested areas are replanted
- 90%* of wood is certified vs world total of only 11%
- Biodiversity is valued
- Forests are managed as carbon sinks
- Water systems are protected
- No wood from protected areas or tropical forests is used
- Occupational health and safety is respected
- Strict requirements for suppliers with regular audits
*)The percentages for sustainable forestry represent EPIS members’ 2015 environmental LCI data averages.
THE BASIS FOR BOTH OUR LIFE AND BUSINESS
Well-managed forests provide a natural habitat for wildlife. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has stated that ‘Forestry practice in Europe is developing in a way that can be considered good for biodiversity.’
Forests also have an important economic role beyond providing a renewable base for resources as they provide vital income and employment in rural areas and down the forest-based value chain.
In Finland and Sweden forests cover around 70 % of total land area.
During its lifecycle the same tree and the area around it
- Mitigates climate change
- Binds +400 kg of carbon
- Protects natural water sources
- Cleans +800000 liters of water
- Provides +20 kg edible wild food
- Maintains biodiversity
- Offers habitat for hundreds of species
- Has high recreational value
- Supports mental and physical wellbeing
To ensure the same benefits in the future, for every tree harvested, three plants are seeded.
Towards circular economy
The pulp industry has already started the transformation to circular economy by changing its fuel mix, producing bioenergy and reusing residue flows.
The sector is becoming increasingly energy self-sufficient by using its own process by-products and residues to generate renewable energy in its Combined Heat and Power (CHP) installations and biomass boilers.
According to EPIS 2015 LCI data averages over 96% of the energy used was renewable for northern pulp producers, and over 90% also for Latin American producers:
|2015 data||Northern bleached softwood kraft||Bleached eucalyptus kraft pulp|
|Sold electricity, MWh/ton of pulp||0,193||0,243|
|Countries||Finland and Sweden||Brazil and Uruguay|
The industry is mitigating climate change by:
- Energy efficiency
- Fuel switch – low-to no carbon energy sources
- Adapting electricity consumption
- By using emerging breakthrough technologies
- Lowering indirect emissions from purchased electricity – cleaner grids
- Transport – transport efficiency and alternative fuels, such as biogas, advanced biofuels, electricity or even fuel cells.
Paper recycling in Europe reached a record level of 72,3% in 2017, the paper fiber is recycled on average 3,5 times. Paper cannot be recycled indefinitely as fibers get too short and worn out and therefore can no longer be used in creating new paper or other products. Hence, virgin pulp is needed to continue the cycle. These new fibers come from renewable, sustainably managed forests and continue the loop.
Using wood for wood products, pulp and paper, recycled paper and creating energy adds 9 times more value and 7 times more jobs than burning wood for energy.