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Print and the Environment

07 March 2011


Another area in which Australian Paper is driving market leadership is through it's 'sustainable futures philosophy' in the use of renewable energy. Renewable energy is derived from sources that cannot be depleted or can be replaced, such as solar, wind, biomass (waste), wave or hydro. Clean, renewable sources don't produce greenhouse pollution.

Annually, over 60 percent of Australian Paper's energy needs are met from renewable sources—these include hydroelectric power, wind power and biomass (black liquor, agricultural waste and sawmill residues).

In 2006 less than five percent of Australia's energy needs were generated from biomass fuels despite their availability as a significant renewable energy. At Australian Paper, biomass contributes to some 30 percent of its energy needs and, across Maryvale in Victoria and its Tasmanian operations, the company has modified its boiler systems to utilise material that in many cases would otherwise go to landfill.

The making of paper requires a source of cellulose fibres which can be as varied as cotton rags, straw, sugar cane and wood. Modern papermaking in Western countries is mainly based on wood, due to factors such as quality, availability and economics.

Separating cellulose fibres from wood is difficult and there is a range of chemical and mechanical processes utilised, depending on the wood type and the end use required.

One of the dominant industry processes used for pulping is the kraft process. This system relies on high temperatures to dissolve the lignin and release the fibres. After the treatment, the fibre is washed to remove the dissolved lignin and chemicals and this is then referred to as 'black liquor'. Black liquor is recognised by the Commonwealth Government as a renewable energy source.

The Maryvale mill currently generates steam and electricity from black liquor in two recovery boilers which are supplemented by three natural gas-fired boilers. By 2009, the mill expects to be producing approximately 900,000Gj of renewable energy.


Australian Paper's Tasmanian operations have some of the highest levels of renewable energy usage within the global paper industry. Australia's most significant hydro electricity plants and adjacent wind farms supply the Burnie and Wesley Vale mills.

In addition to these mainstream renewable sources, AP's Tasmanian engineers have successfully retrofitted on-site boilers to accept agricultural and sawmill wastes. As of 2005, 92 percent of the energy at AP's Tasmanian mills was derived from renewable sources.

One unique renewable energy partnership is in the area of waste poppy plants. Tasmania is one of the world's major suppliers of medicinal opiate products, strictly controlled by the Federal and State Governments. After the medicinal opiate has been extracted from the poppy flower, large volumes of plant waste remain. This waste is collected and transported to AP's onsite boilers for use as biofuel, directly replacing fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

In late December 2006, the Federal Government announced funding of almost $1 million to help Australian Paper's Wesley Vale mill to reduce energy costs, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions by some 9,000 tonnes per year. Forestry and Conservation Minister, Senator Eric Abetz, said that the funds will \"assist Australian Paper to replace expensive and polluting oil-fired boilers with new gas-fired boilers, totalling almost $4 million.\"


The on-going debate about recycled-virgin fibre is still a hot issue, especially from Australian Paper's perspective. \"I believe we are in a strong position to comment on this issue,\" says Talbot. \"Most people think the major benefit from recycling is forest preservation. While the practice does reduce the amount of virgin timber required, trees are in fact a renewable resource and today, most ethical paper producers, including Australian Paper, have adopted sustainable forest management practices.\"

As an industry, Talbot believes we need to promote paper and wood products as positive societal items of benefit to the planet. \"Managed correctly with associated chain of custody, they are a natural and renewable source that, in print form, has many significant aesthetic and educational values compared with many communication alternatives.\"

The links between global warming and the paper, print and graphic design industries are clear and they start in the forest. The choice of paper that you sell, print, design and use can impact significantly on climate change and the loss of the earth's biodiversity. Remember, you can and do make a difference.

Kristina Holdorf is an advocate for environmental innovations within the print and paper industry with an in-depth understanding of environmental certification systems, corporate social responsibility and green procurement policy writing. She is also a registered FSC chain of custody auditor for Scientific Certification Systems, California. For further information, visit