Paper recovery and recycling is one of the few areas of green business practices that show steady, continual improvement, as we have found every year for the last four years in our State of Green Business report: Since 1990, the amount of the paper supply recovered for recycling has nearly doubled, reaching 63.5 percent this year.
Last week, the American Forest and Paper Association, an industry trade association, released its first-ever combined sustainability report as well as a set of updated goals for the next nine years that will aim to bring the steady progress the industry has seen for recycling rates to other areas of the industry's environmental impacts.
The AF&PA's "Better Practices, Better Planet 2020" plan sets a goal of 70 percent paper recycling by 2020 -- which, if achieved, would mark the outer limits of what is possible to recover for recycling. Of course, the AF&PA last year reached its previous recycling goal two years early, so it is certainly possible that 70 percent is a goal that's quickly within reach for industry members.
Although the 2010 report is the AF&PA's first sustainability report, the group has been collecting and analyzing the data for more than a decade; this year's report marks the first time the environmental, health and sustainability data has been collected into one overarching sustainability report.
The report, which includes data only up to 2008, shows generally good progress on the industry's environmental impacts -- in addition to the aforementioned recovery rates and improvements, the industry as a whole has also been steadily cutting its sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and total reduced sulfur emissions steadily. As the chart below shows, although overall greenhouse gas emissions are on the decline, between 2006 and 2008 the industry saw a sharp jump in its collective GHG intensity -- the amount of energy required to per unit of product brought to market:
Hence the need for setting stretch goals for the industry. The goals laid out in the group's 2020 plan include:
The full sustainability report is available for download from AF&PA's website.