Office Supplies Company Staples Ditches Polluting Paper Producer

Posted on February 11, 2008. Filed under: General, Green Marketing, Resources |

The paper sector is an obvious a target for green activism, so this weekend’s breaking news that Staples, the big US office supplies retailer, severed all ties with its Singaporean paper supplier because of environmental concerns shouldn’t be that surprising. But the events that led to Staples’ move are rather interesting; a Wall Street Street Journal reporter had discovered that the company was going to use its Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo and tipped off the FSC about the environmental policies of APP.

APP’s paper producing methods have incited environmental concerns because it in part relies on natural rainforests. In recent years a hoist of US, Asian and European companies terminated their contracts with APP, one after the other. All cited environmental concerns as their reason. The giant retailer Office Depot Inc. was also in the list.

The WSJ reporter’s action resulted in the FSC’s objection to Staples’ use of its label (which is considered the world’s most stringent), which certifies responsible management of the world’s forests. A Staples spokesman last weekend told the Wall Street Journal “We decided engagement was not possible anymore. We haven’t seen any indication that APP has been making any positive strides [to protect the environment.]”. He added that staying in business with APP would come “at great peril to our brand.”

It’s obvious; Staples is concerned that its customers won’t be enamored with forest destructive paper production methods. APP has a policy of producing paper from newly planted forests but says that due to huge demand, it needs to cut trees from mature rainforests as well. This practice is, in the Wall Street’s Journal’s terms, ‘having an impact on big U.S. paper buyers’.

The big question now of course is whether APP, one of the world’s largest paper manufacturers, will stop its destruction. The incentive is rather limited; Staples purchased only around 9% of its total paper supplies from APP. The bulk of it was photocopy and office paper. The WSJ didn’t manage to get a reply from APP immediately, but perhaps later this week, when Staples officially announces its decision, there will be more information. Subscribe to this blog’s feed and stay posted.

The energy and pollution factors of various differing paper types can be calculated down to the amount of trees via a model devised by Environmental Defense. The calculator lists all the main paper types and enables you to compare them on energy usage, waste production, trees chopped down, greenhouse gases produced and waste water used. For instance, the difference between 100 tonnes of normal copy paper compared to 100 tonnes of glossy magazine paper is a whopping 509 trees and 34,943 lbs of greenhouse gases, not to speak of the other measures.

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Despite these stunning numbers, the alternative to wood-sourced paper is by no means rosy, because recycling paper involves use of (rather mild) chemicals like sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide. For starters, the recycled paper de-inked and bleached so all coloring is removed to prevent the paper from turning out too dark. The ensuing pulping process also involves plenty of chemicals.

For a detailed guide on various papers’ compositions, check out CeleryDesign. The breakdown is by papers’ fiber content, chlorine and weight.

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There are three types of FSC certified papers, including a recently introduced ‘recycled’ label. To carry this label a material must be made from 100% recycled paper. To see which papers come with what kind of certification, visit the UK recycling debunker site LovelyAsATree.

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