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Global Trade

The Global Paper and Pulp Industry

In recent years we hear more about businesses making the commitment to “go green.” For many, this may entail the gradual phasing out of paperwork in place of digital documents and reports shared online. Newspapers and magazine now offer digital editions that may be read on computers and eBook readers, and bank statements and receipts may be accessed via e-mail. Nonetheless, despite this shift the United States alone consumes nearly half a ton of paper annually, therefore the industry remains critical to global trade.

Paper and Pulp

According to a 2007 report from the Environmental Paper Network, not only is nearly half of all wood harvested for commercial use delivered to produce paper products, but the industry as a whole ranks fourth among the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Western Europe’s population accounts for the largest percentage of paper use per person (about a quarter of a ton annually). Surprisingly, of the paper produced globally, less than half of the output is recovered for recycling.

Top Producers in the Paper Industry

The paper and pulp industry encompasses more than the production of reams of white sheets you find stacked at your local office supply store. When you think of the paper and pulp, you’ll soon discover it includes hundreds of items—many of which you can find at home and work. Bathroom tissue, newsprint, grocery bags, food packaging, even paper money is touched by this industry. While initiatives toward greener practices in business continue, one can argue we will always rely on paper products to some extent. According to Paper Facts, the top global producers of paper and pulp are:

  • The United States – In 2006, the US Industry and Market Outlook reported over four hundred working paper mills in the country. Exports of product average close to $15 billion.
  • Canada – Paper and pulp production is considered one of this country’s largest industries, close to a sister industry: forestry. One of the nation’s leading manufacturers, AbitibiBowater, Inc., has ranked among the top ten of global producers.
  • Finland – According to RISI, Finnish paper manufacturers have accounted for more than twelve thousand tons of product, making them one of the more productive European countries in this industry.
  • Sweden – Like her neighbor Finland, Sweden ranks high among European pulp and paper producers. A leading company, Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget, maintains nearly three million hectares of forest land for natural resources.
  • China – Currently ranked the highest producer of paper and pulp, China’s output is nearly triple that of the next Asian leader in the industry, Japan.

Challenges in the Pulp and Paper Industry

When one considers challenges in paper goods production, it is inevitable one must face issues with pollution and recycling. According to the Environmental Paper Network, while paper-based garbage has decreased over the last decade in the United States, consumption remains high. The act of switching to a reduced fiber paper in US offices alone could significantly reduce pollution in the country by ten percent.

Elsewhere in the world, other leaders in the industry have had to face challenges. In 2010, a strike among Swedish plant workers affected six mills. Two years later, rumblings in the industry continued until plans for a strike were dropped following a deal to assist workers.

While we may read more books on our phones and tablets, the need for paper to contain food and keep us clean stays in high demand. The paper industry remains important in the global realm, and hopefully it will change in order to change the environment for the better.

by Kathryn Lively


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