Pulp & Paper Manufacturing Sector
Despite the recent growth of electronic communications, paper continues to play a vital role in communicating concepts, ideas, and opportunities, not to mention the prominent use of paper to archive of much of human knowledge. Tissue, toweling and non-woven products are critical to personal hygiene, medical care and many other aspects of modern life. Fiber-based packaging materials, which are often preferred for their low cost and recyclability, prevent damage and spoilage of contents, and facilitate the transport and handling of products. Chemicals and advanced materials derived from wood pulping have myriad applications in consumer electronics, flavors and fragrances, pharmaceuticals, and many other industries. It is little wonder that use of pulp and paper products correlates closely with the level of economic development.
For economic and environmental reasons, regions with abundant and productive forests, such as North America, are associated with the manufacture of pulp, paper and other forest products. Due to the close association of the pulp and paper manufacturing sector with productive forests, there are more than 450 pulp and paper mills operating in North America. In the US, the forest products industry represents more than four percent of manufacturing GDP and employs nearly 400,000 workers in high-paying jobs. In Canada, the corresponding numbers are 12% and 75,000 workers.
Advances in science and technology have enabled significant reductions in the environmental impact of the pulp and paper manufacturing process. At the same time, the industry manages the collection, recycling and reuse of a vast — and still increasing — amount of used paper products such as newspapers, magazines, corrugated boxes, and office papers. By all measures, the environmental footprint of the paper industry has been greatly reduced and continues to decline. Nevertheless, pulp and paper mills still release emissions to the atmosphere, discharge effluents to waterways, and send residual materials to landfills, albeit in significantly lower quantities than even a decade ago. The industry is highly regulated and operates within a myriad of federal, state/provincial, and local environmental regulations and permit requirements. Moreover, the industry’s customers expect that pulp and paper manufacturing will be done in a sustainable, socially responsible manner. These incentives reinforce the commitment of the modern pulp and paper industry to responsible environmental performance and commitment to sustainable operations.
Environmental performance, compliance with regulations, and demonstration of sustainability are at least as complicated as any other aspect of pulp and paper manufacturing. Recognizing this inherent technical complexity, the North American pulp and paper industry voluntarily maintains the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement as a technical resource for the industry and for society at large, whose mission is to analyze, understand and communicate the technical issues associated with pulp and paper manufacturing operations. NCASI is uniquely prepared to research and understand the technical issues associated with environmental performance of the pulp and paper manufacturing industry, and to share the results of those studies with sponsoring companies, regulatory agencies, trade associations, environmental organizations, community groups and other stakeholders.
The scope of NCASI’s activities in pursuit of this mission is far-ranging, and there is virtually no aspect of environmental performance by this industry sector that escapes NCASI’s attention. Among other activities, NCASI:
- Examines, validates, and occasionally develops sampling and analytical methods to accurately characterize emissions and discharges from manufacturing operations and related facilities
- Applies these methods in field studies of emissions and discharges from manufacturing operations and associated facilities, such as wastewater treatment plants and industry landfills
- Evaluates the effectiveness of pollution control measures employed at pulp and paper mills
- Uses simulation models to investigate the transport and ultimate fate of compounds released to the environment by pulp and paper manufacturing facilities
- Examines and quantifies the ecological impact of emissions and discharges from pulp and paper manufacturing operations
- Develops, validates, and disseminates computer-based tools for reliably assessing the environmental footprint of individual facilities and manufacturing processes
- Develops and disseminates sophisticated Life Cycle Assessment methodologies to characterize the sustainability of the industry, including the complex carbon footprint of an industry that grows, harvests, and replants trees, uses both harvested wood fiber and recycled fiber to make products, and self-generates, occasionally sells and often purchases electrical power
NCASI’s goal in these endeavors is to develop and communicate science-based understanding that is of the highest technical quality and relevance, is transparent to appropriate stakeholders, and is recognized as adhering to the highest standards of the scientific community.