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The Canadian pulp and paper industry is a major exporter of recycled products and the largest importer of recovered paper. In today's world, recycling makes good economic and environmental sense. It keeps paper out of the landfill and puts it back to use making paper products.

Paper Recycling in Canada - Some Facts

The Canadian pulp and paper industry is a major exporter of recycled paper products and the largest importer of recovered or waste paper. In today's world, recycling makes good economic and environmental sense. It keeps paper out of landfill and puts it to good use making paper products.

Recycling is not a new phenomenon in Canada. The first paper mill in Canada was built in 1804 in St. André Est, Quebec just west of Montreal. It used old rags and linen to make newsprint and wrapping papers. The mill has long since gone, but a marker was erected to signify its importance to Canada's pulp and paper industry.

Since 1990, the Canadian industry has invested almost $2 billion to build de-inking facilities and to improve the screening processes to enable the mills to use an ever-widening range of recovered papers.

Today, there are some 62 mills located across Canada that use recovered paper as all or part of the furnish to manufacture boxboard, containerboard, kraft papers, communication papers and newsprint.

In 1989, there was only one newsprint mill in Canada capable of making recycled-content newsprint. Today there are over 25 such mills.

In 1999, the industry transformed 5.2 million tones of old newspapers, magazines, corrugated containers, communication papers boxboard and other grades of paper into new containerboard, boxboard, newsprint, construction papers, communication, kraft and sanitary papers and building materials.

To meet the demands of our customers around the world, Canada currently imports 2.3 million tones of recovered paper from the U.S. each year. That's why Canadian producers encourage economic recycling programs throughout Canada.

In 1999, the recovery rate in Canada was 42 percent i.e. 42 percent of all paper consumed by Canadians was recycled into new paper products. Given Canada's large land mass and relatively small population, our recovery rate compares favourably with that of other countries.

Since the early 1990's, the recovered paper used as a percentage of all fibre furnish in the manufacture of paper and paperboard products has doubled to almost 25% last year.

More Recycling is Possible

In big cities, virtually all paper can be recycled, but a great deal isn't.

More office waste can be recovered. While many large buildings recycle, smaller buildings tend not to.

Many curbside programs have begun taking all grades, but consumers don't necessarily know that. Once only newspapers, magazines and cartons were wanted. That's what many consumers still believe even though research is widening the fibre stream.

As it stands, surveys show that: 

Only 15 percent of Canadian printing and writing papers are recovered for recycling 

Just 14 percent of old magazines are recovered. 

To capitalize on further opportunities for recycling and diverting more paper from landfills, the industry is working on a number of fronts: 

In some cases, paper producers are working with local governments to expand curbside recovery by creating a separate bin for waste paper. A breakthrough was achieved when Metropolitan Toronto agreed to create a Blue Box program for paper recyclables with the potential to expand both the volume and types of fibre recovered

To encourage further recycling a comprehensive Guide to The Paper Recycling Mills in Canada was published in 1998. This guide tells communities and vendors of recovered paper which mills have the technology to recycle which grades.

New Frontiers in Waste Reduction

A Canadian Composting project has given a new lease on life to old boxes... 

Two of the most useful materials used in food packaging, waxed corrugated (WC) and boxboard, have limited fibre recovery potential. In Ontario alone, the container waste of these materials is estimated at 60-70,000 and 450,000 tonnes annually for WC and boxboard respectively.

Re-use of the containers is prohibited because of the possibility of bacterial contamination. The scope for recycling is limited mainly by the presence of waxes in the waxed corrugated containers, and exhausted fibre in boxboard (already a highly recycled material). Now many waxed corrugated boxes are marked as such to assist recyclers in the sorting process.

Composting has been proposed as one means of solving the container waste problem. An independent study has confirmed that the composting of paper-based packaging can both reduce solid waste and reintroduce valuable nutrients into the soil.

The findings come from a PPEC (Paper and Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council) research project undertaken at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Two trials were conducted: one on waxed corrugated and the other on boxboard.

With future development, composting of certain types of board could become a practical and environmentally-friendly alternative to landfill. 

Canada pledged to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2000, by signing the international Global Climate Change Convention. Though Canada accounts for only two percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, there are good reasons to take preemptive action. Global warming could harm northern forest ecosystems. It is technologically feasible to reduce emissions. Also, since young forests absorb a great deal more CO2 from the atmosphere than mature or degrading forests, practicing sustainable forest management, with its emphasis on renewing harvested areas, can maintain and even expand terrestrial carbon storage. 

Between 1990 and 1998, Canada's pulp and paper producers have reduced the use of non-renewable fossil fuel by 25 percent and dropped total energy consumption by 10.5 percent per tonne of production. All this despite the fact that Canada's pulp and paper production actually increased by 19 percent over the same period. 

Industry’s use of fuel oil has been cut by nearly 50 percent since 1990.  As of October 1998, 31 pulp and paper companies had registered with Canada’s Voluntary Challenge and Registry (VCR) and/or Industrial Energy Innovators/Canadian Industry Program for Energy Conservation (IEI/CIPEC). They represent 78% of the total production of the canadian pulp and paper companies. 

Since 1990, energy efficiency in mills has improved by 10.5 percent on a per tonne of production basis. 

A positive environmental effect

In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the industry's initiatives have created a positive domino effect on the environment. The average recycled content of newsprint has risen from 1.4 percent in 1990 to 22 percent in 1997, reducing the industry's electricity consumption by over 2.5 million megawatt hours per year. At the same time fibre recycling cuts down on landfill and eliminates the associated carbon dioxide and methane emissions which occur with decomposition. 

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