Paper mill, Paper and Green Economy

“Green Economy” means orienting our actions towards behaviors that embody maximum respect for the environment, in every field. A respected environment guarantees an “ethical soil” and contributes to the quality of life more than any other activity.

Federico Boario – EDINOVA Strategic Committee

The current crisis is imposing efficient behaviors; the wastes that society was used to today represent costs, while in the past, when the economy was more florid, they may also have seemed conveniences. It is a complex reality to which we are having difficulty adapting. And when speaking about the world of paper and its values, there is little talk about the contribution that it can give to “green economy” and of how it is becoming necessary to recur to paper supports for storing memory. And this despite the fact that progress proposes new virtual filing means that allow saving space but that compared to paper, are exposed to risks and generate additional costs. “Green Economy” means orienting our actions towards behaviors that embody maximum respect for the environment, in every field. A respected environment guarantees an “ethical soil” and contributes to the quality of life more than any other activity.

Paper and the contradictions of our society. «… Information technology and the computer will heavily impact paper consumption … One day paper will disappear …». These are remarks that we are still hearing today and that caused serious preoccupation to the paper field/system, and this notion is a popular belief due to the difficulty in managing change, innovation and development. Every innovation is experienced like a phenomenon that will cancel everything that preceded it to open up a new, better world - we hope - with no room for turning back. Roy Lewis in Evolution Man makes the inventor of the bow and arrow say «… with this weapon there will be no more wars …». History has proven him wrong, exactly how it will prove wrong those who affirm that IT will cause the demise of paper. The contradiction lies in the fact that the conservation of memory must not be entrusted to other media.

IT documents have been rendered obsolete in time by the evolution of reading systems: who today is able to “read” WordStar? How can we recuperate texts written in languages that are no longer in circulation? For the common user it means facing costs for recovery and translation into current languages that filing away on paper supports does not entail. Reading an older file is more complex that interpreting a 4000 year-old papyrus!

Paper is the offspring of “Ethical Soil”. The paper mill assumes a different role from that of other production structures. Producing paper from cotton or from wood is an operation that respects the environment - an expensive operation - that has survived in museums: seeing the piece of paper take shape and coming out of the water is a great show. Basically, the process had not changed. The paper machine follows the same steps as production by hand: pulper, copper belt and drying cylinder just repeat antique gestures mechanically. The paper machine is an integrated ensemble, certainly an energy-hungry device and as such, becomes one of green economy’s strategic factors. Visiting MIAC, we are impressed to see how much the global industry is working to improve production in respect of the environment and cost containment. The paper supply chain starts from an ethical soil capable of producing trees that can be turned into cellulose, from cuttings and re-plantings - re-planting more than what is cut down -, from transport systems connected to waterways, cheaper and less polluting. It is an agricultural supply chain that respects the environment and that since its very beginning, contributes to preserving and enriching the territory. Countries in northern Europe, Canada and some US states turn this into a tool to enhance tourism and the quality of life. We can consider working in a forest like a mission or like a wealth: in How to Marry a Millionaire Betty Grable falls in love with a park ranger who, from atop his observatory, shows her the forest saying “… all this is mine …”.

Green Economy and Paper Mill.

Downstream of the supply chain we find the paper mill followed only by distribution to users. Before deciding where to build the paper mill, surveys are performed that allow reducing impact on the soil, the necessary filters are set up so that re-issuing process waters into the environment does not affect local agriculture: any residual cellulose fibers shortly lose their riskiness and return inside the environmental cycle. Within the facilities, alcoholic beverages are not consumed in order to avoid distractions in the hot area of the machine. The heat necessary for the Yankee dryer is re-used for co-generating energy, reducing production costs and environmental impact. The economic resources necessary for the PM and its updating are investments, not costs, because the long replacement time of technology - even decades - and consequent long amortizations can be absorbed by the product’s economy. Sludge can be re-used to produce commodity goods for the construction field and agricultural materials. A virtuous cycle. Even if the paper mill does not operate in a green context, it generates a direct environmental benefit for the territory in any case: it is one of the major instruments of green production, it produces in eco-compatible fashion using energy-saving, impact-reducing resources.

The Value of Paper. Paper is always used in noble forms that can be summed up in a cultural-collective context whose process nucleus is an offer by companies that is functional to consumer demand. Mulino Bianco company has for years looked into placing the symbol “recyclable as paper” on its packages. Green Economy falls within a new economic paradigm that redefines the balances of the “citizens, institutions and enterprises” system. And in the conservation of memories, too: paper does not require energy to be preserved. How much do memories not made of paper, cards, clouds, IT archives cost? How much energy do they absorb in order to survive and how much does the risk of technological turnover influence this? These are questions that must be answered because the lower conservation costs of IT archives are apparent if we consider the costs of their maintenance and of equipment disposal. *

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