Emerging Technology Clears Sustainability Log Jam
AF&PA's annual "Paper Week" conference begins Monday. Increased paper prices will be top of mind. Behind the scenes is the story of an emerging technology that is advancing the industry's environmental performance -- both water quality and the use of forest resources. That technology is ECF (Elemental Chlorine-Free), based on chlorine dioxide.
The switch to ECF has been a key factor in the lifting of fish consumption advisories for dioxin in waters downstream of bleached pulp mills in the US and Canada. The US Environmental Protection Agency supports ECF and Greenpeace has called it "a step in the right direction." ECF pulp's market performance, both in the US and worldwide, has been dramatic.
ECF solves the problem of dioxin and reduces the effects of chlorinated compounds to the point of insignificance, according to a recent science panel report.
Since 1991, 11 states have lifted 15 fish consumption advisories for dioxin downstream of US pulp mills, according to the US EPA. This is one-half of the 31 advisories existing at the end of 1990.
ECF pulp production in the US since 1990 has increased by 1,200 percent to capture 33 percent of the American market.
ECF pulp is the best alternative in terms of product quality -- it is stronger, which means it can be recycled more often, and ECF uses fewer forest resources.
Much of the industry, staking its future on ECF, could not have made a better bet in terms of environmental performance, the market, and economic security.