How to stop paper mill waste
Paper mills produce a range of products, from paper towels to paper books, but Australia’s largest paper mill produces more than 100,000 tons of waste annually.
The Waste and Environment Australia report, commissioned by the Paper Industry Council of Australia (PICA), has identified three key waste management actions for Australia’s paper mills to consider: reducing their waste stream, increasing the amount of recycled paper in their production, and introducing a carbon tax.
“The key issue with paper mill paper is the volume of paper produced,” said PICA executive director Steve Smith.
“If we take out the paper, then we’re reducing the amount we’re producing, but what we’re not doing is reducing the waste.”
A waste stream is the amount a company is able to generate from one product by converting the product into a product that is useful or is of economic value.
For example, a paper towel might be converted into a paper book, but a waste stream of one book is not much compared to a waste flow of a towel or a paper mill.
The paper mill’s waste stream includes the waste of paper towels that were used for cleaning, the waste generated when the paper towel is washed and dry, and the paper waste produced when the printer spins the paper for paper books.
The waste stream can be increased by replacing a product with a better product or by adding a product to the production line that can be recycled or composted.
“Our report outlines some of the key actions to reduce the paper mill in Australia,” Smith said.
“It’s not a simple list but it’s something we’ve been working on over the last 12 months.”
These actions include: “Increasing the amount and the efficiency of the paper production process by moving to anaerobic processes that remove water and nutrients, reducing the size of the machine, moving to renewable energy, improving the quality of paper and other materials used in the paper processing process, reducing paper mill production time and reducing the number of workers.”
PICEA is recommending that Australia reduce the amount that the country produces paper by one third by 2020.
The organisation is also recommending that the Australian paper industry work towards a 50 per cent reduction in waste.
“We’re looking at what we can do in Australia to be able to achieve a 50-50, and hopefully by 2025 that will be achievable,” Smith told the ABC.
“But the reality is that it’s not as simple as that.
We need to look at a lot of different factors, a lot more than just paper.”
A carbon tax The report calls for Australia to introduce a carbon price on the country’s paper mill emissions, based on the amount the country generates annually.
“There is no doubt that the paper industry produces a significant amount of waste, which is an important part of the Australian economy,” Smith explained.
“So it would be a very, very important step to have a tax on paper mill greenhouse gas emissions.”
But the PICAs report also recommends that Australia introduce a tax for paper mills.
“As the country moves towards a lower emission future, it is critical that Australia implement a carbon emission tax to reduce its paper mill pollution,” the report states.
“With Australia now being the world’s largest exporter of paper, the importance of a carbon pricing scheme should not be underestimated.”
“In the short term, a carbon market would provide an incentive for Australia companies to reduce their paper mills, as this would reduce the price of paper to Australia consumers,” the PICTA report says.
“However, the costs of carbon pricing should not overshadow the benefits of an effective carbon trading scheme.”
A paper tax would also help the industry cut its paper waste, as the report suggests that if Australia introduced a carbon dioxide tax it could reduce its waste stream by 20 per cent.
“Cutting paper mill management waste, such as paper towels, would provide the immediate benefit of a reduced waste stream and reduce the impact of paper mill operation on the environment,” the authors say.
“This would provide a temporary boost in the short-term, but would be offset by a decrease in the amount produced by the paper mills over the long-term.”
The paper mills report also indicates that there are other steps that can also be taken to reduce paper mills waste.
These include: moving to recycled paper, which can be produced by paper mills that are in “non-renewable” stages and not currently being recycled, reducing waste by moving paper mills production to other facilities, reducing their paper mill operating hours, and reducing their recycling of paper.
“Some of the measures that we are recommending could be implemented over a longer term, for example, to be in place in the next three years,” the paper industries report states, adding that there is “still time to achieve these steps.”
“While we are working with the paper manufacturers, the paper sector and other stakeholders to achieve our recommendations, we encourage all Australians to take the steps they can to reduce waste