Paper News Blog is reporting that uncoated freesheet consumption (well, shipments) is down 8% from 2007 to 2008. That is before the current downturn was in full effect. Could this be due to the slow realization of the paperless office? We'll need more data to know.
In the meantime, we can estimate some environmental savings. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, it's quite large. Assuming 5% recycled content across all of this paper, Climate for Ideas estimates the savings are around 6 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide equivalent. That includes the vast amount of carbon left in trees, happily growing and stored in the forest, that would otherwise have been used mostly not in the paper itself, but as fuel to make the paper. (Around 3.3 million tons of trees are used to make 1 million tons of paper, with 5% recycled content.) That's a lot of burned trees. Hopefully, this will also slow the conversion of natural forests that the North American paper industry has been undertaking. That includes the conversion of old-growth forests in Canada to secondary forests, and the conversion of secondary, but natural, forests in the US southeastern states to plantations. Both of these conversions mean almost permanent, at least long-term, losses of carbon from these ecosystems.
And, strangely, when freesheet paper consumption is down, the taxpayer saves a bundle: these companies are claiming 50 cents per gallon of tree-based fuel they burn.
This estimate does not include all the savings printing and managing all of that paper incurs as well.
Environmental Defense Fund also estimates the following savings in other pollutants:
- 18.6 billion gallons of waste water
- 2.2 billion pounds of solid waste
- 12 million pounds of particulates
- 5 million pounds of volatile organic compounds