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Carbon Emissions in the Pulp and Paper Industry
By Rod Fisher

The pulp and paper industry now has a way to evaluate its carbon emissions completely and comprehensively. A new model, analyzing the carbon footprint of every pulp and paper mill in the world, shows some startling differences across the industry.

Asia, the largest emitter, produces 65% more carbon per-ton-of-paper produced than the most efficient producer, Latin America. Moreover, because of its large volume of production, Asia is responsible for nearly seven times the total amount of Latin America's carbon and 41% of the industry's total global carbon emissions. The North America paper industry emits 23% of the paper industry's carbon, and Europe 30% (Figure 1).

Each region's carbon emissions come from a different mix of sources. Asia, for example, produces a relatively high amount from burning fossil fuels, whereas North America's paper industry has a higher proportion from purchased electricity.

The data above, associate carbon emissions from market pulp with mills that use it and, therefore, do not include carbon emissions from mills producing the market pulp.

There are huge differences in carbon emissions between mills both in total and on a per-ton-of-paper basis. The average of the fourth quartile of producers emits nearly 80% more carbon per ton than the average mill in the first quartile of CO2 emissions (Figure 2). Interestingly, the range of emissions in every region is approximately the same. However, the shape of the regional curves are quite different resulting in big differences in the average emissions of regions.

Surprisingly, the differences between grades are much smaller. Tissue and Towel is responsible for the most carbon per ton of paper produced, but only by 23% more than Packaging, the lowest per-ton emitter. Packaging, being a large segment of course, is responsible for the majority of the industry's carbon at 55% (Figure 3).

As in the case of individual mills, there is a significant difference in the carbon outputs between companies. The average of the fourth quartile emits roughly 2.25 times the carbon as the average of the first quartile (Figure 4). Even within grades and regions, there are big differences between companies with fourth quartiles averaging twice that of first quartiles in most cases.

The carbon emissions model used for this article, comes from Fisher International's FisherSolve™ Carbon Benchmarking module. Based on its mass-energy model of every mill in the world, the system calculates carbon emissions from "cradle-to-gate" and even "cradle-to-destination." This means that it accounts for all carbon emissions from making each Finished Product on each machine including: carbon associated with the manufacture and transport of raw materials; the production, transport, and combustion of fuels in the mill; the purchase of electricity; and the transport of parent rolls of paper to any of 100 destinations in the world.

The model allows analysis down to the paper machine-Finished Product level and can roll up analysis to any level above. Carbon Benchmarking will be widely available for the industry to use and Fisher hopes that it can become a standard tool for considering policy and commercial issues.

Rod Fisher is president of Fisher International, Inc. and can be contacted at: [email protected]. More information is available at


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