Environmental Impact of Paper and Wood Industries Explored in Special Issue of Journal of Industrial Ecology

The environmental impact of the paper and wood industries, from production through consumption and recycling, is the topic of a recently released special issue of the Journal of Industrial Ecology. The peer-reviewed international journal is published quarterly by MIT Press for Yale University with headquarters at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES).

“Industrial ecology is a rapidly growing field that systematically examines local, regional and global materials and energy uses in industry,” said Reid Lifset, the journal’s editor-in-chief. “It focuses on the potential role of industry in reducing environmental burdens throughout the product life cycle – from the extraction of raw materials, to the production of goods, the use of those goods and management of wastes.”

The recent release of three major studies of the pulp and paper industry by three very different authors prompted the special issue, Lifset said. The sometimes controversial studies are by the Environmental Defense Fund Paper Task Force (EDF PTF), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and Maureen Smith of the Pollution Prevention Research and Education Center of the University of California at Los Angeles in a book for MIT Press.

Lifset said the EDF PTF sought to expand the market for environmentally friendly paper by combining comprehensive technical analysis with the purchasing power of six major consumers of paper (EDF, Duke University, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, The Prudential Co., and Time Inc.). The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a group of multinational businesses that encourages high standards of environmental management, funded the London-based IIED report. Titled “Toward a Sustainable Paper Cycle,” the report is an independent assessment of the issues facing the pulp and paper sector in the context of sustainable development.

All the authors participated in a transcontinental e-mail roundtable, exploring points of commonality and disagreement from their bases in Los Angeles, New York, London and Vienna. The special issue includes an edited transcript of their three-week-long e-mail debate.

Other research articles in the special issue include an analysis of the dynamics of production growth, waste paper utilization and technological advances needed to accomplish the goals set out by the American Forest & Paper Association’s AGENDA 2020 for recycling, energy efficiency and biomass use. Another article asks at what stage in paper and wood production – either during forest management, manufacturing, consumption or waste management – could greater productivity potentially relieve pressures to harvest more forests.

The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies is the oldest graduate program in natural resource and environmental management in the United States. For further information about the special issue, visit the journal’s web site at http://mitpress.mit.edu/JIE or call (203) 432-6949.

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