The paper making industry continues to destroy forests and waterways around the world.

Ecological Damage

Paper and Deforestation: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), about one third of the paper made in the U.S. today comes from whole trees and plants, about one third comes from wood chips and scraps, and about one third is recycled from other paper.1 Global consumption of paper has increased 400% in the past forty years.2 Worldwide, 35% of harvested trees are turned into paper, with the vast majority coming from “plantation forests.”2 However, almost 9% of the trees that are harvested for paper are still logged in old growth forests, mature ecosystems that would take centuries to restore.2

The importance of deforestation cannot be overstated. Since the beginnings of agriculture, humans have destroyed more than half the world’s forests.3 Every year, another 61 thousand square miles of forest disappear, an area slightly larger than the U.S. state of Georgia.3, 4

Deforestation means:


Paper and Water Pollution: Paper manufacturing requires huge quantities of water, so paper mills are almost always situated near lakes and waterways. Water discharged from paper mills is rich with organic matter, which at high levels is classified as a pollutant.8 Organic discharges from paper mills kill higher organisms through the process of “eutrophication.” By this process, organic pollutants in water nourish phytoplankton, which then reproduce rapidly into “blooms” that consume so much oxygen that fish and other species die.9

Furthermore, when organic matter reacts with chlorine – as happens when wood pulp meets chlorine-based bleaching agents in paper mills – huge quantities of toxic organochlorines (dioxins and chlorinated toxic pollutants) are produced.9 The EPA identified dioxin as "the most potent carcinogen ever tested in laboratory animals” in 1985,10 and in 1997 it released new rules to regulate the use of chlorine by paper manufacturers.11 The rules did not mandate paper mills use available chlorine-free bleaching processes (using oxygen, ozone or hydrogen peroxide), but rather the EPA mandated a switch from elemental chlorine gas to liquid chlorine dioxide in the bleaching of paper.11 While this change has reduced the emissions of chlorine-based toxins from paper mills by an average of 75%, it still allows each paper mill to emit an average of 7-10 tons of these toxins per day.12 The current use of chorine in conventional paper manufacturing is unacceptable. Dioxins and other organic chlorides are highly toxic, known to be carcinogenic, and cause health effects in humans including reproductive, developmental, immune and hormonal disruptions.13, 14

Page Notes

  1. Municipal Solid Waste; United States Environmental Protection Agency;; Retrieved February 10, 2012.
  2. Paper Chase; Sam Martin; Ecology Communications Inc.;; Updated September 10, 2011.
  3. Global Deforestation; University of Michigan Global Challenge;; January 4, 2010.
  4. Source above states that 16 million hectares of forest disappear each year. This is equivalent to approximately 61,800 square miles. The state of Georgia has an area of 59,424.77 square miles.
  5. Deforestation; National Geographic;; Retrieved February 24, 2012.
  6. Nature Loss “To Hurt Global Poor;” Richard Black; BBC News;; May 29, 2008.
  7. Destruction of Renewable Resources;;; Last updated July 22, 2012.
  8. Effluents from Pulp Mills using Bleaching; Health Canada;; Retrieved 9/4/12.
  9. Environmental Comparison of Bleached Kraft Pulp Manufacturing Technologies; Environmental Defense Fund;; December 19, 1995.
  10. Dioxin: Environmental Assessment; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;; Retrieved 9/4/12.
  11. EPA’s Final Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard “Cluster Rule” – Overview; United States Environmental Protection Agency;; November 1997.
  12. Chlorine Free Processing; Conservatree;; Retrieved 9/4/12.
  13. Chlorine, Pollution and the Environment, The Women's Environmental Network;; Retrieved March 29, 2012.
  14. Green Living: Green Living Guides; National Resource Defense Council;; Retrieved March 22, 2011.