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Printing and the Environment

The printing industry has worked very hard to remain environmentally conscience while producing top quality “green” products.  Many programs have been put into place to support this effort.

Much of the paper we use today comes from sustainable forests or tree farms.  Trees are grown, harvested and replanted; similar to other crops, like wheat or corn.  According to an article published in the Boston Globe in May of 2007, by Professor Edward Glaesner, “the print [industry] gives landowners a financial incentive to renew forests rather than convert them for other uses, such as agriculture or development.” The forest area in the U.S. increased by 14 million acres between 2007 and 2012. That’s the equivalent of 5,800 NFL football fields per day!

According to the USDA report, 2012 Forest Resource Tables, most pulpwood harvested in the U.S. (89%) comes from private land. Landowners receive income from the trees grown on their land. This is an important incentive to maintain, sustainably manage and renew this valuable resource. This is especially important where landowners are facing economic pressure to convert forestland to non-forest uses, such as residential housing, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and NCASI. Continued use of paper and other wood products may therefore be a key factor in maintaining a forested landscape for future generations.

The United States E.P.A. Office of Solid Waste reports that one third of the fiber used to make paper comes from wood chips and sawmill scraps; another third comes from recycled paper.  According to the American Forest & Paper Association (AF & PA), there are 200 mills in the United States that use recovered fibers exclusively.

87% of Americans have access to curbside or drop-off recycling programs.  Because of their popularity currently 63% of all printed materials in the United States are recycled.  That number is growing each year.  The AF&PA have partnered with the EPA in an effort to grow the recycling programs in America.  Recently, after reaching an annual recovery rate of 56% of all printed materials, the industry has raised the bar and set the goal at a very attainable 60%.  Recycled paper is used to make everything from construction materials to consumer goods, and it can also be recycled more than one time.

The goals have been set, the programs put in place, and the printing industry as a whole has embraced the idea of producing environmentally conscience products.  See, a printer can be an environmentalist!

Written by Tracey Papke

Tracey Papke is the owner of Potamus Press, a commercial print shop that specializes in offset and digital printing. For more information please visit or call (951)693-2136.

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