The forest industry carefully utilises the raw materials it procures. Processes have been developed so that more end product than before is created from a smaller amount of raw materials, lessening the environmental impact of manufacturing.
Almost all of the by-products created by the forest industry are utilised in further processing. The wood chips created in conjunction with sawmilling, for example, are used as a raw material for pulp and particleboard. On the other hand, the production process of pulp making generates electricity and heat as by-products.
Production up, emissions down
Over the last fifteen years, the production of the paper and paperboard industry has almost doubled, while the emissions caused by manufacturing have reduced significantly over the same time. For example, biological oxygen consumption in water systems has decreased by 90 per cent.
The production process must be managed very carefully to cut emissions to the absolute minimum. The pulp and paper industries strive to use wood, chemicals, pigments, filling agents and water as sparingly as possible. The amount of water used per one tonne of produced paper, for example, has been cut significantly in recent decades.
Products are also utilised after use
The products of the forest industry do not turn into waste after they are used. Paper products are recycled or burned. Recovered paper is a vital raw material for the industry and should primarily be used in production, and after it can no longer be recycled it should be used for the generation of energy.
Wood-based construction waste contains a large amount of energy for incinerating if dismantled structures cannot be reused.
Competitive industry can invest in efficiency
Policy on recource efficiency is in development in the EU. It is important that no binding targets or economic instruments for resource efficiency will be set. For example taxes on using resources would not recognise the efficient use of materials. Instead taxes would penalize resource efficient companies that use high volumes of resources.
Instead of targets and economic instruments resource efficiency policy should focus on:
- economical growth as a precondition to bio-based and sustainable investments
- promoting the hierarchy in the use of materials: processing, re-use and recycling come before energy use
- promoting renewable bio-based, recyclable and climate friendly raw materials in consumption (e.g. packaging, construction)
- ensuring competitiveness of the bio-based industry that allows new investments to more efficient and climate friendly technology
- ensuring competitive price level for raw materials which allows efficient material intensive industries to develop in EU