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Paper Production Facts
- Over half of our native forests have been cleared since European settlement.
- Those remaining are fast disappearing, largely for building and to make paper.
- In Victoria alone, around 15,000 hectares of public native forest are clearfelled each year. This is equivalent to 20 football fields cleared every day.
- All of Australia’s domestically produced office paper is made by the multi-national company Paperlinx (previously AMCOR). Fibre for photocopy paper is sourced primarily from native forest eucalypts from the Central Highlands region in Victoria (home to the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, Spotted Tree Frog, Sooty Owl, Tiger Quoll, Powerful Owl and rare flora species eg., the Tall Astelia Lily) and the Strezlecki Ranges in South Victoria. Pulp is also purchased on the open market and is widely believed to be sourced from Indonesian rainforests.
- 50% of our tallest forests and 75% of our rainforests are gone.
- 33% of native animals and 33% of native plants are extinct, rare or threatened.
- Australia wide, an estimated 70,000 hectares of native forests is cleared for woodchips each year.
- Under the Forest (Wood Pulp Agreement) Act 1996, the Kennett Government granted AMCOR (now Paperlinx) the right to cut down between 350, 000 and 500, 000 cubic metres of pulpwood each year until 2030. The Bracks Government has supported this arrangement.
- The Central Highlands also provides Melbourne and many surrounding towns with clean drinking water, and contains magnificent Mountain Ash forests, with many pockets of old growth and rainforests.
- Paperlinx annually consumes over 1 million cubic metres of native forest pulpwood (source Appita 95), largely obtained from publicly owned native forests.
The Clearfell Logging Process
- Definition: Clearfelling means cutting down almost all the trees, bulldozing and burning the understorey and replanting an even-aged crop of selected species. This is done in coupes (blocks) of 30-40 ha at 50-80 year rotations.
- Short rotation clearfelling prevents forest habitats (hollows for birds and mammals) from developing, greatly reducing biodiversity.
- Re-growth forest requires more water than old-growth forest so less water runs into streams and water catchments.
- In the short term, run-off increases when rain falls, causing higher flood peaks and carrying more top-soil into creeks. Silted rivers, damaged roads, bridges and fencing result.
- Changes to microclimate following clearfelling tend to lower an area’s rainfall, resulting in vegetation adapted to drier environments. Drier forest environments increase the frequency and intensity of bushfires.
- Research shows that up to 85% of tree ferns in a clearfelled coupe are destroyed. Those remaining after 2 years are in poor health and no new tree ferns grow.
The Chlorine-Bleaching Process
- Chlorine and chlorine compounds combine with wood molecules in pulp mill effluent to form organochlorines. This group of compounds range in effect from the harmless and merely unpleasant to those which cause cancer, immune system malfunctions, reproductive disorders and even mutations. Organochlorines accumulate in animal tissue and do not biodegrade. Effluent from pulp mills using chlorine ends up polluting our oceans and waterways. Chlorine is used as a bleaching agent by Paperlinx with their photocopy papers. It is also widely used by Indonesian and Brazilian paper mills. With most recycled waste paper products no bleaching agent is used. But chlorine from the initial bleaching is still present and hence a closed loop water cycle is necessary to stop pollution of waterways.
- Chlorine-based chemicals (including dioxins) persist in the environment and work their way up the food chain. (Scientific studies conducted by the International Joint Commission on The Great Lakes).
- Chlorine free alternatives are papers that are bleached or whitened with oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, ozone or enzymes or recycled without re-bleaching. Any bleaching process introduces harsh chemicals into the environment. An unbleached or not de-inked recycled paper product is the most environmentally-friendly choice.
- Papers with recycled content cannot be called “Totally Chlorine Free” (TCF) because the recycled paper contains remnants of chlorine compounds from their original manufacture. Paper which is recycled without the use of chlorine chemicals is called “Process Chlorine Free” (PFC).
Pre versus Post Consumer Products
- Pre consumer waste has not been used by consumers. It is basically the offcuts from the manufacturing process which includes mill, converter and printer offcuts. In most cases, it is still virgin forest sourced. Many paper products labelled “recycled” are in actual fact pre consumer.
· Post consumer waste is defined as paper that has been used at least once by consumers, after which it is gathered and sorted by a recycling company, eg., office paper can be recycled into high quality copy and printing paper: Steinbeis, Nautilus. NB: Almost all the paper that Paperlinx recycles is recycled into cardboard boxes, not office paper. Many companies that used to manufacture 100% post consumer paper products are beginning to add virgin fibre to their products due to the shortened fibres from the continuous recycling of the source material, eg., VISY Recycling. While this may be inevitable it is essential that the maximum life of any resource be exhausted prior to the use of virgin sources.
Published by SCRAP Ltd 2003
Thanks to SCRAP for supplying this information for use on the Living With Awareness website..
SCRAP (School Communities Recycling All Paper) Ltd
C/o Holsworthy High School, Huon Cr, Holsworthy 2173
Ph: 02 9825 1062 Fax: 02 9825 6972 ABN 40 079 741 227