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FOPAP recycling claims to be studied by Energy and Climate Change Minister

10th February 2011

Pro-print and paper research organisation FOPAP (Friends of Print and Paper) have been told this week that the Minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Gregory Barker MP, is to investigate its claims that recycling paper is potentially accelerating climate change and worsening global warming. This follows two letters of concern sent to Mark Pawsey MP and Nicola Blackwood MP by the group last month both of whom have now asked for an investigation into the claims by the DECC.

In his letter to Gregory Barker MP, Mark Pawsey MP said, “[FOPAP] is greatly concerned over current commitments by national, and local, government and private sector entities to increase the use of recycled paper and board, as opposed to paper and board from virgin fibre, and the movement away from printed materials to online communications in regards to carbon emissions. I have been provided with a detailed analysis of its concerns and I have attached these for your consideration”. He concluded by asking for the claims to be studied, stating “May I ask for these concerns to be addressed with a detailed response”.

John Roche, one of the founder members of FOPAP, said the organisation had written to MP’s explaining why the use of virgin fibre in paper helps to sequester more CO2 from the atmosphere than recycling it; that for each tonne of virgin paper manufactured and printed on, two or three hundred net kilograms of CO2 are absorbed permanently from the atmosphere when it is stored in landfill, but only after one cycle, and that this benefit disappears when the paper is recycled as the stored carbon credit is eaten up by the reprocessing.

“The CO2 in the atmosphere is food for growing trees” says Roche. “Once a tree is fully grown, it stops sequestering CO2 and becomes carbon neutral. At this point, if we were to chop it down, bury it where it fell, and then plant another sapling, this would be a good thing – in terms of CO2 removal from the atmosphere at least. Rather than bury the tree, however, we might as well turn it into something useful – like paper. When it has been printed on and used as a product THEN we should bury it. As long as the emissions from processing it do not exceed the CO2 locked into the paper fibres, we can do it all carbon neutrally – and even show net carbon absorption. In other words, growing trees, felling them, replacing them with saplings, using the felled tree for paper products and then burying these at the end of their useful life can help reduce global warming. Once you get your head around this, it is becomes both enlightening and, at the same time, frightening; that we have got it so badly wrong for so long with our quest for paper recycling.”

With rhetoric like this, it is little wonder that the DECC have been pushed into reviewing FOPAP’s claims. If proved true, it would cause a paradigm shift in the thinking of the printing and paper industries and potentially change the global mindset relating to paper recycling forever.

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(C) 2011