press release | 18.01.2021

Study "Sustainable paper cycle - a factual basis" starting points for responsible and sustainable action

Augsburg, January 18, 2021

Paper as a raw material is used for a wide variety of purposes and on a large scale. It is impossible to imagine daily life without it. A study by the bifa Umweltinstitut, sponsored by the Board of Trustees for Research and Technology of the Pulp and Paper Industry, now compiles reliable facts on the sustainability of paper production and paper use. On 57 pages, the study provides a comprehensive database especially on the topics of life cycle assessment, energy consumption, wood origin and recycling.

The study establishes that the paper industry uses wood, a renewable raw material that does not cause any greenhouse gas emissions in the balance sheet and does not impair the forest ecosystem when used sustainably. An analysis of the origin of wood indicates that clearings or the conversion of primary forest and semi-natural forest predominantly serve purposes other than paper production. Moreover, by certifying forest areas and purchasing FSC- or PEFC-certified wood, pulp or paper, many companies support sustainable forest management.

With sustainable wood use and high recycling rates, the paper industry has a good starting point for acting sustainably. The limits of recycling do not lie in a progressive loss of quality of the fibre material. Rather, losses of recycled fibres in the process must always be replaced by primary fibres.

The study also looks at the issue of energy. The German paper industry is one of the most energy-intensive sectors. The final energy consumption per tonne of paper has been reduced considerably over the years, by 43 % since 1980. A major hurdle for a significant further reduction is the process step of paper drying.

The amount of paper used is high in international comparison. In relation to the gross domestic product, however, Germany is in the middle. This indicates a close relationship to economic performance. Paper, cardboard and paperboard play an important role in the logistics of Germany as an export nation.

The study is published as bifa Text No. 70 and available at