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Brazil – Paper pulp industry impact study

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The “Two Sides” campaign started in Europe in 2008 and in Brazil in 2014. Its main objective is to correct common mistakes regarding the environmental impacts of the production and use of paper, board and cardboard. These materials are made of cellulose, extracted from trees. As a result, many believe that their production causes deforestation. This is one of the main mistakes made by the Two Sides.

It is possible to obtain cellulose from any plant. However, for an efficient, economically viable and competitive industrial process, only a few tree species are used. Brazil is the second largest producer of pulp in the world, with almost 20 million tons per year. This pulp is produced from eucalyptus, native to Australia, and American elliottii pine. These are therefore exotic species that do not exist in Brazil’s native forests. Those who use these trees as a source of raw material must necessarily cultivate them. It is therefore obvious that if the demand for paper increases, it will be necessary to expand cultivation. More paper, more trees!

Planting is done in areas that are already normally used for agriculture. They replace pastures and other crops, never native forests. To sustain its production, the Brazilian pulp industry uses 2.7 million hectares. This represents only 0.86% of the land used today for agriculture and animal husbandry. For every hectare of cultivated forest, these companies preserve 0.7 hectares of additional native vegetation.

Cultivation follows best management practices, aiming to potentiate the use of soil and water resources, reduce pests and increase productivity. Despite this, a forest cultivated with exotic species will never be similar to a native ecosystem. Since the survival of humanity depends on several monocultures, our challenge is to reconcile this type of activity with environmental protection. The first step is to reduce all unnecessary consumption and, at the same time, to make the best choices.

In the case of transport, for example, what should our choice be – to use petrol, ethanol, electric vehicles, or cycling? Let us remember that it will not always be possible to use a bicycle, the electricity that drives cars ultimately comes from the combustion of fossil fuels, and the production of ethanol requires monocultures of sugar cane.

In the case of paper, what are the alternatives? Is digital communication better for the environment? What about packaging? Will cardboard and alternatives to cardboard be better? Here are a few points for reflection:

Cellulose is a renewable raw material. Cultivated trees contain CO2 from the atmosphere, which contributes to the fight against climate change.
Paper, cardboard and paperboard are highly recycled all over the world. In Brazil, the recycling rate is 68.7%.
Even waste that is not recycled (toilet paper, for example) is biodegradable.
The Brazilian pulp and paper industries produce 69% of the energy they consume. Of this, 82% comes from renewable sources.
It is not true that growing eucalyptus desertifies the soil. On the contrary, according to Embrapa studies, when properly managed, planted forests are a potential alternative for recovering degraded pastures and water resources.
The pulp and paper industries return more than 93% of the water they use in their processes to the environment, complying with legal quality requirements.
According to studies from Yale University, the computer centers that make up the “cloud” already consume 2% of all electricity in the world and produce as much CO2 as the aviation segment.
Electronic waste is a major environmental problem. According to a World Economic Forum report, the world already produces 50 million tonnes of e-waste per year, of which only 20% is recycled. It is the fastest growing type of waste. Some raw materials for electronic devices are obtained with serious social and environmental damage.

Think about this when you make your choices.

Although paper is a highly sustainable product, no resources should be wasted. Use only what is necessary.

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