The Environment and Why It Matters
We aim to produce paper-based packaging solutions using only raw materials from non-controversial sources. To achieve this, we monitor the origin of the raw materials we use by implementing strict policies, which are applicable to all our operations and suppliers. Our packaging solutions are mainly produced using paper and board consisting of both virgin and recycled fibers, which are also manufactured within Smurfit Kappa.
What is better for the environment – recycled or virgin fibers?
There is no simple answer to that question. There will always be a need for virgin fibers as the recycling of fibers is a finite process. After being recycled seven or eight times, the length of the initial fiber has reduced so much that what remains is essentially ‘washed’ out of the process. Fresh virgin fibers enter the process and the recycling cycle can start again.
The production of paper from recycled fibers is typically more fossil energy intensive than the production from virgin fiber. On the other hand, the production of paper from virgin fibers requires more treatment of the process water. Using recycled fibers means that already existing material is re-used to its maximum potential, which allows us to use virgin fibers for those packaging applications that require their specific characteristics.
What are virgin fibers?
Pulp obtained through a chemical process used to remove lignin from wood. As a result, the fiber can be used to produce paper.
What are recycled fibers?
Recycled fibers are produced from recovered fibers. Recovered Fiber refers to paper, paperboard, and fibrous materials from retail stores, office buildings and homes after they have passed through their end-use as a consumer item and to material diverted from the waste stream during a manufacturing process.
What is biodiversity?
It describes the multitude of life-forms and species (flora and fauna) in an ecosystem. As part of our transparency on our fibrous raw material we report annually to the Carbon Disclosure Project organization.
The packaging product life cycle commences with the processing of virgin and recovered fibers to create paper and board, which are then transferred to box converting plants for transformation into packaging solutions.
Flat packaging is delivered to customers’ packing and filling operations, where it is erected, filled and used to transport, protect and promote goods throughout the supply chain. The recycling process begins when used packaging is flattened and collected (mainly from retail outlets), sorted and then returned to our mills for reprocessing. Due to the renewable source and since the end product is fully recyclable, paper-based packaging is the most environmentally friendly form of paper and board packaging available.
We recycle over five million tons of used paper each year. 88% of our fiber requirement is collected within our own system. We are therefore a prominent industry leader in fiber recycling.
The paper industry is energy intensive. However, the carbon intensity is mitigated by the extensive use of bio-energy in the sector. We focus our efforts on reducing specific types of energy usage and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by investing in more energy-efficient systems such as Combined Heat & Power (CHP) plants, alternative energy options such as biomass, and by driving production efficiencies.
A total of 80% of all fuels used to generate electricity and steam are produced through a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) system, which is the most efficient way of transforming fuel like biomass, natural gas or coal into electricity and/or heat. The biomass we use as fuels, are typically residues from forest management operations, waste from sawmills and/or other residues from wood handling activities.
Mitigating climate change is an integral part of our business strategy. Through dedicated investments, we focus on energy savings projects and consequently CO2 emissions. Climate change represents the most important sustainability opportunity for us today. For over two decades we have been focused on reducing CO2 emissions and have initiated initiatives to address this subject.
Our long-term commitment is:
- 25% reduction in fossil fuel CO2 emissions by 2020 compared to 2005.
- (CO2 emissions are relative to production and can be direct and indirect).
- This objective is to be achieved by investment in energy-efficiency projects and the further substitution of fossil fuels with biogenic fuels.
- 22.9% reduction of fossil CO₂ emissions per ton of paper produced (against 2005 baseline)
As part of our transparency on our carbon emissions we report annually to the Carbon Disclosure Project organization.
As our business is dependent on this natural resource, both water availability and the impact of our water usage are of paramount importance to us. The paper industry predominantly borrows water in contrast to consuming it. Significant volumes of water are processed, but after treatment in modern water treatment plants, over 90% of the water intake is returned to the water systems from which it was extracted.
- Reduce the organic content discharged in our process water (COD) by one third by 2020 compared to 2010.
- The reduction is relative to the organic discharge and also measured by COD, expressed per ton of paper produced.
Achievements to date:
- Completed mill-specific water risk assessments in eleven paper mills
- 31.9% reduction in relative amounts of COD in discharge water (compared to 2005)
We support initiatives to develop ‘water footprints’ and water stewardship standards. In 2011, we joined the Water Footprint Network, which is a frontrunner in developing such standards. We also contribute to, and are an active participant in, the development of sustainable methodology applicable to our industry. As part of our transparency on water management, we report annually to the Carbon Disclosure Project organization.
As part of our drive to use resources efficiently, we focus on minimizing the amounts of waste generated in our production process. In all our types of operations, we have optimized our processes.
Virgin paper mills
In the pulping process where wood is ‘cooked’ and transformed into fibers, all by-products that are generated in that process are recovered:
- Chemicals used in the pulping process are fully recovered;
- Black liquor, which is the organic part of the ‘leftovers’ after cooking the wood to fibers, becomes a bio-fuel.
The non-fibrous materials extracted during the recycling pulp process can typically be used as fuel in incinerators to produce energy either in our mills, or externally.
All waste caused by shavings generated when converting papers to packaging, are recovered and returned to our mills and are reused as recycled fibers.