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The Case For Elemental Chlorine Free Bleaching
by Douglas C. Pryke
Recycled Paper News*
June 1997

The debate over the environmental performance and benefits of Elemental Chlorine-Free (ECF) and Totally Chlorine-Free (TCF) has been a long-standing and oftentimes confusing one.

For that reason, Recycled Paper News deserves recognition for tackling a tough issue and providing a forum to set the record straight.

Having worked in the pulp and paper industry for more than 20 years, I am forever surprised that despite the wealth of new evidence providing further support of ECF's unrivaled environmental, economic and product quality performance, the debate between ECF and TCF still exists.

Ultimately, Recycled Paper News has the right idea: present the facts and trust consumers to see through the fiction. Only then can enlightened paper purchasing decisions be made.

That said, I would like to address some of the falsehoods made by the Chlorine Free Products Association (CFPA) in the April issue of Recycled Paper News.

Despite claims made by CFPA and other TCF proponents, there is no credible scientific evidence that TCF out-performs ECF. ECF's superior product quality, market performance and environmental record is, on the other hand, backed by countless peer-reviewed reports and research by the world's most respected scientists.

Market Data

North American ECF mills have their finger on the pulse of the bleached chemical pulp (BCP) market. Contrary to Mr. Beaton's belief that TCF technologies would provide the U.S. pulp and paper industry with a "competitive edge" in the global marketplace, conversion to TCF technologies would cripple the U.S. industry. In fact, there is no demand -- or market -- anywhere in the world for TCF that compares to that of ECF bleached pulp (see production figures, Recycled Paper News, April 1997).

The data say it all: TCF holds just 6 percent of the world BCP market and has shown no growth since 1995. In spite of this evidence, Mr. Beaton insists the market for TCF is expanding and advocates that U.S. mills convert to TCF to provide a "much needed competitive edge."

Quite the contrary. The only mill in the U.S. that has converted to TCF has not bleached one pound of pulp in 1997, simply because there is no market. Data show that ECF will reach 50 percent of the world market by the end of this year, and continues to grow, producing, on average, 4 million additional metric tonnes per year since 1994.

Now that's a competitive edge.

ECFs market share rises annually as more mills convert to ECF. In the United States alone, ECF production will reach 13 million tonnes, in contrast to TCF, a process that will account for one-half of one percent of production this year.

Similarly, in Canada ECF will represent more than 70 percent, or 8.7 million tonnes of BCP production, while TCF has shown no growth in the past three years, standing still at 40,000 tonnes. North America is not the only example of ECFs market strength. Even in Scandinavia, the largest TCF-producing region in the world, ECF will hold 75 percent of BCP production, triple that of TCF. The demand for TCF has stalled and some Scandinavian producers are responding by increasing their ECF production, as reported at the International Emerging Technologies Conference earlier this year.

Mr. Beaton claims that mills "insisting on chlorine dioxide bleaching will suffer significant trade losses." This is absolutely untrue, as the market pulp imported into Europe with its EU ecolabeling standards is more than 75 percent ECF. Instead of "significant trade losses," mills insisting on chlorine dioxide bleaching are reaping the benefits of a superior process and a thriving market.

Environmental performance

There is no existing evidence that shows TCF having environmental benefits over ECF. Time and again we hear this claim, yet no evidence is ever put forth. However, Svenska Dagbladet a daily Swedish newspaper, reported that research performed by the universities in Gothenburg and Stockholm prompted the National Swedish Environmental Protection Board to publicly state that they would not classify TCF as more environmentally friendly.

In addition, "A Changeing Future for Paper," published by the International Institute for Environment and Development, stated that, "There is no appreciable environmental difference between ECF and TCF."

ECF's environmental performance is documented and internationally recognized. The U.S. EPA's 1996 National Listing of Fish and Wildlife Consumption Advisories shows that since 1990, 13 states have lifted a total of 17 fish consumption advisories for dioxin. According to a May 20, 1997 report in the New York Times, the EPA found that when the soon-to-be promulgated Cluster Rule mandates 100 percent chlorine dioxide substitution, it will result in the lifting of all remaining fish consumption warnings in place below pulp mills.

Similarly, the "Chlorinated Substances Action Plan", a report released by Environment Canada and Health Canada, stated that in British Columbia, 46 percent of closed coastal fisheries have been reopened. This ecosystem recovery progress is just one aspect of ECF's fortitude and a stepping stone to continued progress.

The minimum-impact mill

ECF is compatible with the minimum-impact mill. A recent paper presented at the 1997 TAPPI Environmental Conference summarized a debate among the world's premier minds including Peter Axegard, John Carey, Jens Folke, Peter Gleadow, Johan Gullichsen, Douglas W. Reeve, Brita Swan and Vic Uloth about the criteria to establish and create a minimum-impact mill. These international experts concluded that ECF is in fact more likely to be compatible with the minimum-impact mill than other processes.

The paper states, "Up until recently, it was believed that TCF was necessary for bleach plant effluent elimination; however, with the development of new technologies and the concept of alkaline recovery, ECF is being seen by some as the more compatible. The main reason is that chlorine dioxide bleaching is less sensitive to the build up of organics and metals in highly closed water recycle circuits compared to ozone and peroxide bleaching."

Such an opinion is backed by the Champion International Corp's Canton N.C. mill, a demonstration project of Bleach Filtrate Recovery (BFR) based on ECF. It is one of the most advanced "closed-loop" developements in the world and its success disproves any assertions that ECF prevents a mill from going "completely closed-loop."

Workplace Safety

Chlorine dioxide is not a new chemical and has been used safely for almost 50 years. It is no more threatening than other bleaching chemicals such as ozone, hydrogen peroxide and parricides that can be used in TCF processes. The handling usage of these chemicals are closely monitored by state and federal regulatory agencies, including OSHA and EPA, against stringent government protocols.

In addition, manufacturers follow a code of Responsible Care, a commitment to assuring the responsible management of the product through all stages of its production, use and disposal.

Claims that there is an "apparently higher risk" for certain cancers among pulp mill workers is not supported by scientific evidence.

A study by the Johns Hopkins University found that there is no additional risk of cancer amoung pulp and paper mill workers compared to the general population and, if anything, risks are lower.

Facts vs. Rhetoric

The growth of ECF is propelled by the facts documenting eco-system response, market demand, product quality and compatibility with the minimum-impact mill of the future.

Looking at this evidence, we must ask ourselves why TCF advocates rely on rhetoric, scare tactics and misinformation to wage a battle against ECFs solid scientific facts.

The international verdict is in and it's in favor of ECF. Let's turn out the lights on TCF and put this debate to bed.

For more infomlation on ECFs proven track record, call (800) 999-PULP.

*Used with permission from Recycled Paper News.