In a Wan-Ifra webinar on 13 October 2021, Stefanie Eichiner, senior manager sustainability, UPM Communications papers said, “Today’s environmental crisis is deeply interlinked and directly affects our health and welfare. The Triple Crisis has three pillars – climate change, biodiversity loss and the global pandemic. These crises don’t touch only on the natural environment, but directly affect economic welfare and health as well.”
Today, society depends on fossil fuels. Digging up the oil out of the ground has led to remarkable wealth and growth, but keep in mind all this brings us much closer to wild animals, wild plants, and insects that carry viruses that we have never been exposed to before. Many of the species became extinct because of this fossil drive. Loss of biodiversity brings global warming, and the increase in temperature drives the pandemic by giving breeding grounds to insects carrying diseases.
The increasing use of fossil fuels by the world’s growing population mainly depends on driving the demand for a high standard of living, digitalization, mobilization and urbanization. All seemingly positive developments may be good to continue but unfortunately have side effects. The growing population facing the problem of resource scarcity of recycled fibre, fossil fuels and pandemics plays a significant role in the economy’s downturn but upturn the packaging industry.
Governments in general look to safeguard the resources and health of citizens by tightening rules and regulations. However, consumer awareness is essential, and today, it is often the customers who are asking companies about sustainability solutions, while governments are obsessed with ‘growth.’
In the paper and publishing industry, the main issue is the renewability of raw materials and sustainable forestry. It is about safe products and production – the chemicals in the material going into the paper and finishing should have low carbon energy and low emissions to water and air. The circular design on the packaging should show the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.
Triple Crisis — Eco-labels on paper packaging
Paper manufacturers and users should start with a label that ensures safe production and product, have a sustainable value chain, protection from reputational risks and greenwash-free communication. So there are three steps to choose sustainability for publishing papers-
- Choose sustainable fibre – a certified fresh fibre that is being harvested from the forest or recycled fibre.
- Know and reduce the carbon footprint – GHG (Green House Gases) emissions emitted during the life-cycle of paper production, converting or printing and distribution, from the production of raw materials used in manufacture, to disposal of the finished product. If the paper is manufactured from renewable resources like biomass and uses biogas, and hydroelectricity, in the pulping and papermaking process it can reduce the carbon footprint.
- Ensure eco-efficient production – it is extremely important for paper manufacturers and leads to a more healthy and sustainable environment. Eco-efficiency means being less harmful. One route to eco-effectiveness is to eliminate fossil fuels.
There is a survey by Statista in 2017, about eco-labels in Europe. The EU eco-labels are most known (27%) among Europeans, followed by the Blue Angel (23%), NF Environment (18%), Znak ekologiczny eco (10%), and Nordic Swan labels(8%).
Using eco-labels, the paper industry shows the product’s life cycle from sustainable sourcing, processing using less energy, water and chemicals, and end-use, waste collection and recycling. Users, to ensure full sustainability must choose paper with an eco-label that covers its life cycle.