Paper industry and forest

Paper, a material derived from a renewable resource: wood 

Plant cells from wood are the main constituents of paper and board. These cells are made of molecules produced by photosynthesis and occur in the paper as several millimetres long fibres. Through this chemical reaction, chlorophyll cells in trees capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and turn it into carbonaceous molecules (cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, etc.) using energy from the sun.

The plant-based fibres make paper a renewable material. So long as the tree harvested to make a manufactured product (wooden flooring strips, panels, cardboard boxes, etc.) is replanted, the use of this raw material will not deplete the reserve.  This characteristic fundamentally sets paper and board apart from most other materials where production requires a reserve to be exploited that gradually diminishes with extraction (oil to produce plastics and minerals to produce metals, etc.).  


Harvesting wood must be done as part of sustainable forestry management

Harvesting wood from a forest must be done in such a way that the forest ecosystems in a particular country are not degraded. This “sustainable management” principle can be illustrated by the following image: when a tree arrives at maturity (i.e. a the right age for harvesting) after 60 years, if you divide a forest into 60 sections and replant each section after the trees have been harvested, you will get a balanced forest area producing an unlimited flow of material over time.    

People sometimes misunderstand this image of a dynamic forest balance. Some think that harvesting wood is a predatory activity and that forests must be ‘wrapped in cotton wool’.  This preservation scenario is vital and clearly justified in some cases (for example, when forests shelter a remarkable plant or animal species), but it must not become the imperative in France as wood is the only renewable material used on a large scale.

In reality, the sustainable management of a forest is obviously much more complex than the image used above. To achieve this, various tools have been introduced. Among these, some aim to provide the consumer buying a wood product or wood-based product with a guarantee that the notebook, envelope, or cardboard package they purchase comes from sustainably managed forests. These certification schemes for sustainable forest management, such as PEFC and FSC, are important tools for the paper industry. As a result, the industry together with other stakeholders (forest owners, environmental protection associations, etc.) is heavily involved in their governance.

The fibres used by the French paper industry contribute to developing forested areas while preserving their ecosystems

Harvesting wood (like wheat, rice, or any agricultural crop production) is an economic activity providing an income for the owner and the different contributors to the value chain (nursery growers, forestry experts, lumberjacks, logging equipment manufacturers, logging haulage companies, etc.). This business therefore contributes to the development of rural areas.