EFCT: Environmental Footprint Comparison Tool.  A tool for understanding environmental decisions related to the forest products industry.  Recycled Fiber. headerlink
Effects of recycled fiber use on wood use

Recycling reduces demand for virgin wood fiber. The size of the impact is difficult to estimate and will vary by region and product type. It will always be necessary, however, to harvest trees to provide new (virgin) fiber to the fiber supply. New fibers find their way into the recycled paper stream, improving the quality of recycled fiber. In addition, it is impossible to recycle 100% of the paper that is used so a certain amount of virgin fiber will always be required.

Reduced demand for virgin fiber does not translate directly into reduced pressures on forests. In the case of private forest land, the harvesting of trees to meet demand for forest products provides income to landowners that helps reduce the incentives to convert forestland to other uses. Pressures to convert forests to non-forest uses may increase if the market for wood fiber declines Therefore, if one is concerned about keeping land in forest rather than wood use per se, activities that reduce the demand for virgin fiber can actually cause detrimental effects.

When considering these aspects in the context of comparing recycled and virgin fiber, note that trade-offs undertaken at an individual mill site ultimately have cascading effects through the overall industry’s fiber cycle. Given that the recycled and virgin fiber cycles are inherently interrelated, shifts in environmental aspects due to changes in the usage of one fiber type versus another result in shifts elsewhere in the fiber cycle. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool that can help examine these interactions. LCA, particularly in the context of looking at the manufacturing of recycled versus virgin fiber pulp, is discussed in NCASI Technical Bulletin No. 1003.

Click on the link to the right for information about the demand for virgin fiber.

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Demand for virgin wood fiber