Paper Industry Commentary
May 2020


Tissue makers focused on the commercial or the away-from-home market have long understood that hand washing and drying with a paper towel is an underserved market need. If people followed professional guidelines there would be a significant increase in paper hand towel demand. There are two problems with this simple recommendation -- not everyone washes their hands, and those who do rarely take the prescribed time to do so properly.


Individuals and corporations have banded together to help frontline workers and those impacted the most by the novel coronavirus – and the global pulp & paper industry certainly has played a role in fighting the disease. Mill employees have navigated social distancing measure in the workplace to create essential, sought after products, while executives have given millions of dollars and products to hospitals, schools, and relief causes..


Toilet paper has stepped into the spotlight during the coronavirus pandemic. Either you have hordes of it, or you’re down to your final roll and can’t find a 4-pack in a 20-mile radius. Given the increased demand for tissue and towel products brought on by COVID-19, it’s a perfect time to revisit where these products actually come from and what impact this surge can have on the environment.
The following analysis is an excerpt from a Fisher analysis piece titled “Is Bath Tissue Really Wiping Out North American Forests?” available for download here.


We are still in the early stages of a pandemic-fueled shutdown of the global economy, but there will also be some stark adjustments once we emerge on the other side of the COVID-19 challenge. The “new normal” is poised to decimate the automobile, airline, cruise line, and larger hospitality industries in the near term. And the complex supply chains that service these industries – the thousands of manufacturers, distribution networks, etc. – will also feel the pain.


FBB, as well as all paperboard products, is an environmentally sustainable alternative for plastic packaging. Unlike plastic, paperboard is renewable, recyclable and, in some cases, even biodegradable and industrially compostable. The growing desire, especially in Europe, to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans has awakened demand for paperboard packaging. There are already a few plastic packaging bans in Europe.


A large number of paper mills use recovered paper as a major source for fibers. It’s generally assumed that making paper using recycled fibers saves energy compared to using virgin fibers, and various companies report energy savings anywhere from 30- 50 percent or more. Given society’s growing focus on issues of energy and climate change, which kind of paper manufacturing is preferable – virgin or recycling?


In late January, one estimate of the impact in a region supplying logs to both the sawnwood and pulp and paper sectors was that more than one-third of the resource was damaged. Estimates included that around 4.0 million m 3  of logs could be salvaged in a single activity in that region. Another region may be able to salvage around 1.0 million m of fire-damaged wood.We are advised that salvage operations can occur for a period of up to eighteen months in most cases, before logs decay to the point of being unusable. 


Included in this collection of news, International Paper has announced that it has made a commitment to  donate two million corrugated boxes  to hunger-relief organizations. The donation will benefit organizations such as Feeding America and The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), and other relief agencies in communities where International Paper employees live and work.
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