Fresh or recycled fiber, 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 fiber for the sustainable supply of renewable raw material and products, outlining the environmental tradeoffs between choosing either fresh and recycled fiber and emphasizing how to maximize the value of each harvested tree.

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

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

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

Demand for wood and fiber is expected to increase for the foreseeable future. Using natural resources responsibly and transparently is key to meeting 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. Fiber 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.

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