Product Bans and Fees
PPEC is opposed to product bans or fees imposed on paper materials in the marketplace on the grounds that they unfairly penalise products that are made from renewable resources and renewable energy;are often high in recycled content; and are widely recyclable and compostable.
All PPEC-member mills have achieved third-party certification that the material they use to make paper products is responsibly sourced, whether it’s wood chips and sawmill residues from a logging operation or recycled boxes from the back of supermarkets or curbside. Certification and bans on the landfilling of perfectly recyclable paper materials make more sense to the paper industry than some of the other suggestions currently being promoted.
The industry’s customers and the public want independent verification that the industry is sourcing its packaging materials responsibly. Third-party certification through agencies endorsed by the Canadian Council of Forests Ministers does that, demonstrating and promoting the sustainability of forest management practices in Canada. In fact, Canada leads the world in forest certification, being home to over 40% of the world’s certified forests (see Trees).
Landfill bans on perfectly recyclable materials such as old corrugated boxes and paper grocery bags also make sense because they reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfill, extend landfill life, and save taxpayers’ money. They also supply the paper packaging industry with the additional used paper material it needs to make new packaging (see Recyclable). Attempts to mandate minimum recycled content levels, while perhaps well-intentioned, are misguided, says PPEC in a recent press release and backgrounder, Understanding Recycled Content .
Paper versus Plastic
Environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) results have not provided a clear answer regarding the relative environmental performance of paper versus plastic grocery bags. Paper bags have some attributes, plastic has others. And using life cycle studies that have little relationship to how bags are actually produced in Canada is very misleading.
For example, no current studies adequately recognise the Canadian industry’s high use of wood chips and sawmill residues to make bags, or its use of renewable energy (biomass). No LCAs have properly taken into account the effect of plastic litter on aquatic and marine ecosystems. Unlike traditional plastic bags, paper bags are readily biodegradable.
Where information that is not representative of actual production conditions in Canada has been disseminated, PPEC has tried to correct the record (see PPEC press release and blogs at the right). There is one ISO-compliant and peer-reviewed LCA that has some Canadian content. As it addresses only paper bags, however, it is highly problematic to use it to make comparative claims relative to plastic bags. For example, the LCA results would be based on models with different system boundaries, assumptions, and geographical contexts.
Furthermore, where comparisons have been attempted in other studies, they often do not compare “like to like”, and may not take into account a bag’s carrying capacity, as well as other important packaging functions such as protection, strength, stiffness, advertising support and print quality. Further information on this subject is available through PPEC.