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Sustainability Necessary for Survival in the Paper Industry

Paper Industry ©


February 19, 2008

Wood as a raw material is getting scarcer and more expensive. Austrian paper manufacturers are being forced to find eco-friendly methods of production.

The competition for wood is hot. Sawmills, the paper industry, and producers of heating fuel are fighting for Austria ’s precious raw material. “Although there was an oversupply of wood in Western Europe in the past years, the next decades will show a drastic shortage due to huge political support for energy recovery. This process will be helped along by crude oil prices which have risen dramatically in the past months,” according to Günter Edinger, Managing Director of Austropapier, the Association of the Austrian Paper Industry .

The three industries are not actually competing with each other, as each needs a particular quality of raw material. But demand is higher than supply and this leads to problems. “If biomass for thermal use is promoted, the wood needed must be available,” says Gottfried Joham of the Mondi Group . If too little of the wood used for thermal purposes is available, then higher quality wood has to be used – to the detriment of the paper and particle board industries.

The Austrian paper industry is under a great deal of pressure. “Survival is only possible if our raw material is handled in an eco-friendly way. Innovative solutions are needed immediately,” according to Herbert Grill, Purchasing Manager of Lenzing Chemie . If the competition for wood should come to a head, then smaller Austrian paper producers will be forced out.

An essential part of reducing the demand for raw wood in the paper industry is the use of recycled paper. The less the paper needs to be processed for the final product, the more often it can be reused. ”Recovered paper can be reprocessed up to seven times,” says Austropapier Managing Director Edinger.

But even products made of wood can be friendlier to the environment: sustainable management and reduced use of materials is possible. Where industrial bags were made of three layers of paper 20 years ago, today’s bags are made of one layer. Joham explains, “Today we only need 60% of the material for the same result.”