What Is the Circular Economy?
In nature, nothing is wasted – one species waste is another one’s food. Things grow, they die, and their nutrients are returned to the soil. A circular economy is one which, like the natural world, is based on recycling and reuse, feeding back waste products into the system, emulating nature so that waste is minimized.
So it is with the pulp and paper industry – an industry which has the concept of a circular economy built into its very DNA.
The basic raw material of the paper industry is renewable; it’s wood from sustainably managed forests. Often, the paper industry uses the offcuts from other timber-related industries. For example, the residue from woodcutting is used to make paper.
Wood pulp is made into all sorts of paper products and then, once they have served their purpose, the industry collects and recycles the paper-based waste. This closes the loop: creating a circular economy.
In Europe, paper is recycled at a rate of 72% – this means every paper fiber is recycled, on average, 3.5 times per year!
In addition, other raw materials used in the pulp and paper industry have a similar rate of reuse and recycling. Water is a key resource in paper making and 93% of the water used by the industry is cleaned and returned to source.
The pulp and paper industry is also seeking out new relationships with other sectors to look for industrial symbiosis.
This pioneering approach to seeking out opportunities for industrial symbiosis is something that offers much potential for expanding the circular economy and maximizing its benefits.