Tissue paper – a sustainable industry for centuries

Where thinking long-term is a way of life

The tissue paper industry is sustainable by design. Its raw material is a renewable resource with a growing cycle of around 50 years, so sustainability has been a way of life for the sector for centuries.

Thanks to sustainable forestry practices, the tissue paper industry grows and regenerates its raw material in order to provide a constant supply for future generations.  This way it preserves not just our planet, but also the future of the sector. Trees play a crucial role in the Earth’s eco-system, capturing and storing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide while at the same time providing the planet with much needed, breathable oxygen. In fact, trees emit particularly large quantities of oxygen during their growing phase – underlining the importance of continually replanting trees for the future.

Driving sustainability across the value chain

As part of an industry that has always had to look to the future, tissue paper producers are committed to driving sustainable practices across their value chain. The paper sector is signatory to the Legal Logging Code of Conduct, condemning illegal logging, and over 80% of the pulp purchased by the European paper industry is certified by an environmental management system. By adhering to international and national third-party certification schemes the sector demonstrates its credibility and reassures both its customers and the end consumer. Some companies also carry labels on their products that underline their high environmental credentials – such as the EU Ecolabel, PSC and PEFC. 

And it doesn’t stop there. The tissue paper industry is working hard to drive sustainability and circularity across its supply chain – from the water and energy that it uses in its production processes through to the transportation of tissue paper products and their recovery and recycling at end-of-life.  It uses mainly bark and twigs and waste from the lumber industry in its production and many tissue paper producers are using innovation to create closed-loop products and processes which will serve to increase product recovery and minimise waste.

Focus is also being placed on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transferring to renewable energy.  Some 58% of Europe’s pulp and paper industry’s energy consumption already comes from renewable biomass and the sector is proud to be Europe’s single largest user and producer of bio-energy. The sector is also working to reduce its water use and is an active partner in the development of water stewardship. Paper making machines have reduced their water consumption by 30% over the past decade and, since 1970, the amount of water needed to produce one tonne of pulp has fallen five-fold.

Looking ahead to a circular future

While the tissue paper industry has always operated sustainably, today circularity and the importance of achieving sustainable consumption and production are being embraced by governments and societies around the world and are enshrined in the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.

Through innovating to reduce, reuse and regenerate throughout its value chain, the tissue paper sector is working to deliver against the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, economic and societal – and continuing to produce products that are essential to protecting the health of our planet’s citizens while also protecting the planet itself.