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Recycling Doesn’t Save Trees

External Reference/Copyright
Issue date: 
August 10th, 2010
Publisher Name: 
What they think
Peter Nowack
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Timber Procurement


Yep. That’s right. Recycling doesn’t save trees.

That’s the position of Roger Dziengelski, a Certified Forester and VP of Continuous Improvement and External Operations for Finch Paper, LLC in upstate New York.

Don’t take this the wrong way. Roger is a big fan of recycling – it saves landfill space (which is a finite resource) and correspondingly reduces the amount of methane generated by the decomposition of materials buried in landfills. (As you know, emissions of greenhouse gasses such as methane are tied to global climate change.) Recycling paper also allows society to make more complete use of the wood-fiber resource – paper fibers can be used repeatedly, until they finally wear out over time.

But recycling doesn’t save trees. At least not in commercial working forests, which is where our pulp and paper comes from. In a commercial forest, the same trees that are used to produce pulp and paper are also used to produce other commodities, such as lumber and veneer. Some parts of the same tree also can end up as firewood to heat rural homes or biomass to fuel steam boilers for industry and electrical generators.

True, recycling paper can reduce demand for some portion of the virgin tree fiber. But it doesn’t save tree a tree that is destined for many applications. Companies such as Finch Paper, LLC are committed to full use of the fiber resource. The same trees used by Finch for the virgin-fiber component of its paper also are used in everything from veneered cabinetry to landscape mulch. And the fact that the trees are used commercially is what generates revenue to the landowner sufficient to cover forest management costs and a treasure trove of state and federal taxes. Without revenues from commercial forestry, a great deal more land would be sold into the hands of real-estate and industrial developers, and would cease to function as viable forest ecosystems.

And that is precisely the point that Roger Dziengelski drove home to me and my fellow journalists and bloggers on our visit to Finch’s mill and forest in the Adirondacks. Our focus as consumers, printers, and paper specifiers (and the focus of wood, pulp, and paper companies as well) should not be on saving trees, but on saving viable forest ecosystems – areas of biologic diversity that provide habitat for a wide range of species, and deliver non-wood forest services such as cleaner air, purer water, recreational opportunity, and spiritual sanctuary.

I guess that’s what is meant by seeing the forest for the trees. What do you think?


Extpub | by Dr. Radut