Trees work like lungs, reducing greenhouse gases
Paper bags are made from a renewable resource: wood. Trees help reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by acting as a giant set of lungs: inhaling the carbon dioxide that people, animals, and decomposing matter produce; and exhaling oxygen, which sustains all living organisms (including us!) For an amusing and very educational short video put together by the European Federation of Multiwall Paper Sack Manufacturers (EUROSAC), click here
Looking after Canada’s trees is crucial
Looking after trees is vitally important to the survival of all living species. It is also clearly in the best interests of the paper and lumber industries.
Check out the thin black line in the sea of green below:
The line represents how little of Canada’s commercial forest (0.2%) was actually harvested by the paper and lumber industries in the most recent year for which data are available (2012).1 That’s the whole industry: timber for housing and construction, pulp and paper for newspapers, office supplies, tissue, and a tiny little bit for packaging grades. In fact, more than 70% of Canada’s forested area has never been harvested2.
These are not our numbers. They come from Natural Resources Canada, the federal government department that’s charged with compiling an annual report on the state of Canada’s forests.
Major consumers of the forest are fires and bugs!
It is often assumed that the paper and lumber industries are the major consumers of the forest. In fact, forest fires removed almost more than seven times as much timber as harvesting did, and insects and bugs (mainly the mountain pine beetle) chomped their way through an incredible 14 times more! 3
Fires and insects are natural disturbances. The major (human) deforestation occurring in Canada is by converting land to agriculture (41%), oil and gas extraction (24%), and urban development (10%)4. Of the three only oil and gas extraction (from which plastics are derived) is on the increase. In fact, oil and gas deforestation is now three times that of the forest industry, the equivalent in area of more than 73,000 hockey rinks. Deforestation by the forest industry (which has dropped to 8% of the total), comes through the creation of permanent access roads. Otherwise, the industry is not responsible for any net deforestation because it actively regenerates forest by replanting and seeding to meet provincially-set sustainability levels. Currently timber is being harvested at rates more than 30% below the wood supply considered to mark the sustainable limit.
Trees are regenerated
Regeneration is exactly what the forestry industry does every year. Most of the commercial forest is on crown (government) land, and regeneration obligations go hand-in-hand with harvesting agreements. About 67% is currently regenerated through tree planting and direct seeding (over 500 million seedlings per year or 1.46 million per day), while the remainder is regenerated naturally5.
See if you can guess the average number of new tree seedlings planted in Canada per minute. Check out the QUIZ here to see if you are correct.
Canada leads the world in third-party certification of forests
Canadian companies have been early adopters and are world leaders in achieving independent, third-party sustainable forest certification. Some 40% of the world’s certified forests are right here in Canada6.
And the paper packaging industry’s environmental council, PPEC, is very proud that every single one of its mill members has third-party chain-of-custody certification as well: independent proof that all material used to make packaging grades (whether recycled, virgin, or a blend of the two) comes from responsible sources. This is one of the standards that major retailers and customers are now demanding of their suppliers7.
The bag mills
There are two kraft pulp mills in Canada that produce paper bag material.
They use wood chips and sawmill residues. Overall, kraft paper production in Canada is very efficient in its use of tree material. Both Canadian mills have independent third-party certification that their paper fibre sources are sustainably managed8. They also ensure that their chip/sawmill residue suppliers meet sustainable forest management standards, so that the original forest resource they use is renewed, again and again.
1 The State of Canada’s Forests, Annual Report, 2014, page 44, Natural Resources Canada.
2 OECD, Environmental Performance Reviews: Canada (Paris: OECD, 2004) 85, quoted in Conference Board of Canada How Canada Performs, Use of Forest Resources, January 2013.
3 The State of Canada’s Forests, ibid. page 44. Harvest area (0.6 million hectares); Fire burned (4.2 million hectares); Defoliated by insects and beetle-killed trees (8.6 million hectares).
4 Quoted in The State of Canada’s Forests ibid. page 19. The major causes of deforestation in Canada in 2010 were agriculture (18,900 hectares); oil and gas projects (11,100 hectares); municipal, including urban development (4,700 hectares); the creation of permanent forest access roads (3,800 hectares); and mining (2,500 hectares).
5 The State of Canada’s Forests, 2013. page 23, National Forestry Database.
7 Canadian Paper Packaging Mills Achieve Sustainability Milestone: “Chain-of-Custody” Certification, PPEC press release, Jan 22, 2012
8 CSA, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), FSC.