Paper is the New Green: The Green Commandments of the Italian Tissue Industry

The tissue industry was long considered an enemy of the environment: yet over the last few years this view has been strongly challenged. Nowadays, tissue means all-round sustainability, from environmental protection to production processes, not to mention recycling.

The Green New Deal in Tissue Production

It is not by chance that the Italian tissue industry’s Green New Deal started in Lucca a few months ago: its ten principles incorporate, enhance, and safeguard every facet of the tissue lifecycle.

  1. High-efficiency cogeneration must be promoted and, ultimately, made carbon neutral. High-efficiency cogeneration provides essential heat and power which cannot be covered by other sources; it prevents shortfalls in electricity distribution; it serves as back-up for services from renewable energy sources, ensuring a safe and steady supply of power; it removes the need for large spaces to be devoted to generating the same power as a conventional power plant.
  2. Natural gas must be increasingly used as clean fuel for energy transition: just as an example, in Europe, 70% of the installed recycling capacity relies on natural gas.
  3. Existing measures for energy efficiency and energy saving must be used in ever more effective ways.
  4. Less tax and more investment: Industry 4.0 measures can be adopted and applied to the circular economy.
  5. End-of-waste (EoW) authorizations must be approved, as they will boost investments and reduce the environmental impact of the Italian system.
  6. The recycling capacity of the Italian tissue industry must and can be increased.
  7. The capacity to manage recycling of waste and by-products must be expanded: it is an essential aspect of any industrial policy when it comes to the circular economy. Energy recovery from waste will enable closed-loop recycling and a reduction in the use of fossil fuels.
  8. Sustainability and material recyclability must be promoted: paper is a biomaterial that combines. the use of renewable materials with end-of-life recycling.
  9. The quality of waste sorting must be promoted throughout the supply chain, following EoW criteria and in accordance with commodity-related standards used internationally.
  10. Producer liability systems must be adopted: refining solutions implemented for packaging waste, which will boost efficiency, effectiveness and, as a result, increase the competitiveness of the Italian system.

The Need to Go Green: A Crucial Requirement for Products and Services

Green products are now increasing their presence in consumers’ shopping carts around the world. Customer purchase habits have been static for many years: the preference for green products has tended to be just a façade – a good intention that did not translate into an actual purchase. We are now living in a new era, and high-earners are not the only ones opting for environmentally friendly purchases: customers from less privileged income groups also tend to actively buy more products from companies that address climate change. Regulations have been widely enforced to fight so-called green washing, a form of marketing that conveys misleading information about the environmental credentials of a company’s products. Green washing is becoming increasingly risky, because a growing section of the population has the knowledge to expose such deceit.

A study promoted by the Deutsche Bank Research Center confirms that: “About a third of people have stopped buying a product from a company they “really liked” after seeing bad environmental press about that company”.

Other significant data emerge from the same study:

  • Sustainability is not just a fact: it is also about perception. Provided they have no skeletons in their closet, companies must build up a solid corporate reputation, implementing honest relationships with their customers and transparency with media and stakeholders.
  • Rural customers show lower propensity to shun a company’s product after hearing negative climate news: however, while those in rural areas are slower to anger, when it happens, they tend to stay angry.
  • Wealthy customers are the least likely to practice an active boycott, compared to other income groups.
  • Companies that do not listen to their customers will certainly be left behind: as climate awareness hits a tipping point, climate change mitigation will become a normal part of doing business.

Paper: Green by Choice, Clean in Action

At first there was recycled paper; then production processes were refined; packaging and bleaching became kinder to the environment; lastly, the use of sustainable raw materials became non-negotiable. The Green Deal has been growing for decades in tissue production: nowadays, it involves not only those directly involved in tissue, but also the public sector, charities, and – needless to say – all of us who use and consume tissue products, because the choices people make are what ultimately drive the market. 

Ever sensitive to this topic, largely out of a sense of responsibility, the tissue industry has developed engineering, technological and energy solutions to make tissue paper increasingly sustainable. It is worth remembering that paper is green by choice, but also clean in action: not surprisingly, a study reviewing 12 research articles published in 2012 concluded: “From a hygiene viewpoint, paper towels are superior to electric air dryers”.

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is one of the 17 goals of the UN 2030 Agenda, “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity”, endorsed in September 2015 by the 193 Member States. Even better, sustainability can  be regarded as a comprehensive asset: it is a key factor in responsible consumer choices and, likewise, in national and international policies worldwide.

Let’s try and understand, though, how sustainability can be effectively defined. A good place to start is this description by Daniel Kalt, UBS Chief Economist: “Sustainable actions should preserve resources and opportunities for future generations. We should aim to leave our children a planet where it is worthwhile living, a planet that can guarantee them the same welfare we claim for ourselves”. Using this vision as a starting point, we strive every day to build a better world. Our goal? Paper is the new green!