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Consumers perceive paper and pulp has less impact on forests than other industries

Paper Solutions Green Solutions


A recent research report from Two Sides Europe, the ‘Trend Tracker Survey 2023’, seeks to understand changing consumer perceptions towards print, paper and paper based packaging, looking specifically at their environmental perceptions, reading habits, packaging preferences and attitudes towards tissue products.

The print and paper industry is surrounded by myths, many of which are rooted in historical misconceptions about paper’s impact on forests. The need to bust these myths and raise awareness of paper’s sustainability is now more important than ever.

When consumers were asked to rate several industries/activities and which they believe has the most impact on forests, paper and pulp came out as the least damaging. Some 49% of European consumers believe that energy/wood fuel has the most impact on forests, up from 47% in 2021. Whilst, 47% believe urban development (building houses or cities) has the most impact, 45% palm oil plantations and construction/timber, and 37% believe agriculture/farming/cattle raising has the most impact. By comparison, only 36% of European consumers believe paper and pulp was the most impactful, a decrease from 45% in 2021.

Agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, which occurs primarily in tropical and sub tropical regions of the world. In fact, 73% of deforestation in these regions is due to agriculture. In contrast, European forests, which supply wood for making paper, paper based packaging and many other products, have been increasing in net area at a rate equivalent to 1500 football pitches every day.


Paper’s core component, wood fibre, is a natural and renewable resource. In Europe, where almost all primary forests are protected, paper comes from sustainably managed forests where the cycle of planting, growing and regenerating is carefully controlled. Some 67% of European consumers agree that it is important to use paper products from sustainably managed forests, and 37% pay attention to forestry certification labels when purchasing paper based products.

Sixty-seven percent of consumers believe that only recycled paper should be used to make new paper products, indicating that most don’t understand this practical impossibility. Whilst 49% of the fibre used in the European pulp and paper industry comes from paper for recycling, and fibres are recycled on average 3.5 times, they cannot be recycled indefinitely as they degrade to the point where they can no longer bond together to make new paper. Therefore, an input of virgin fibre from sustainably managed forests is always required in the manufacturing cycle.

Over half of consumers surveyed (56%) believe that paper and paper packaging production uses an excessive amount of water. In 2021, around 90% of the water used to produce paper and board in Europe was cleaned and returned to the environment, with the remainder evaporated or retained in the manufactured product.

‘Whilst it is good to see there have been some improvements in consumers' perceptions, this report shows there remain many misconceptions surrounding print and paper based products’ and their impact on the environment,’ said Jonathan Tame, managing director, Two Sides Europe. ‘These misunderstandings make the work we do at Two Sides and Love Paper vital.’

An executive summary of the Trend Tracker Survey 2023 was published in June and is available to industry stakeholders upon request. Visit twosides.info/trend-tracker-2023 to register your interest in receiving this summary.


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