Myths Facts

The truth about paper

Paper recycling saves trees
Wood for paper is grown in plantations that are being continually regenerated and replanted

Paper recycling reduces landfill volume and the emissions released

Paper is manufactured with cellulose fibre from plantations of fast growth species used for that purpose and that otherwise would not exist, so it is not true that trees are saved by recycling paper.

Paper recycling does allow the volume in landfills and the emissions they produce to be reduced.

Spain recycles 5.1 million tonnes of used paper per annum

That amounts to a saving on landfill volume equivalent to 50 major football stadiums such as the Bernabéu or the Camp Nou filled right to the top.

ASPAPEL: Statistical Report 2013

One must only use recycled paper: only recycled paper is ecological
Virgin and recycled fibre are the same fibre at two moments of their life cycle

Thanks to recycling, the useful life of wood fibre is optimised

Cellulose fibre from wood, which is a natural, renewable resource, is the fundamental raw material to manufacture paper.

When that cellulose fibre is used for the first time to manufacture paper, it is called virgin fibre. When that same cellulose fibre is reused successive times, it is called recycled fibre.

That cycle of uses requires a certain amount of virgin fibre to be added to remain in operation:

  • The fibre gradually deteriorates through successive uses (it may be recycled up to approximately eight times).
  • There are certain types of paper used for specific purposes that have certain technical characteristics only virgin fibre provides, due to which virgin fibre is preferably used for such paper.

The best contribution the citizen may make to responsible paper consumption is to collaborate in the recycling process, separating used paper from other waste and depositing it in the blue bin.

ASPAPEL: Sustainability Report

Very little paper is recycled in Spain
The Spanish paper industry is the second largest recycler in Europe

We collect more than 70% of the paper and board we consume for recycling

In 2013 Spain collected: 4.3 million tonnes of paper for recycling.

We collect more than 70% of the paper we consume

ASPAPEL: Statistical Report 2013

The growth of paper collection
1990 – 1.7 million tonnes
2000 – 3.3 million tonnes
2013 – 4.3 million tonnes. Facts: ASPAPEL
The Spanish paper industry is the European leader in recycling: for every 10 kilos of paper
manufactured in Spain, 8.3 kilos of used paper are used as raw material. Its factories recycle 5.1 million tonnes of used paper per annum, which makes us the second larger recycler in Europe, just behind Germany. Facts: ASPAPEL, CEPI

The Spanish paper industry guarantees recycling of all the used paper collected in Spain.

Reusable packaging is more ecological than recyclable
Paper and board packaging: natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable

Board packaging optimises use of resources through an integrated, sustainable cycle

Recyclable packaging reduces the environmental impact more effectively than reuse, through an integrated, sustainable, environmentally responsible cycle:


Optimises the use of resources. Paper packaging is 100% recyclable and biodegradable and manufactured from a natural, renewable source such as wood. Nearly 85% of the raw material used in manufacturing corrugated board boxes is obtained from recycling.


Optimises the logistics processes and reduces contaminating emissions from transport. Provides custom protection and design. Is able to adopt as many shapes and sizes as required by the product. Transports product, not air: less trucks are required to transport the same amount of merchandise.


There is no health risk. With board, each product is in a new packaging: with a new package, there is no risk of contamination from previous use.

After use

100% biodegradable and a leader in recovery and recycling.

We should consume bulk products to use less packaging
93% of consumers considers that paper and board packaging is the most ecological

Paper and board packaging protects the product, provides relevant information on it and its environmental characteristics are unbeatable

Paper and board packaging is natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable and produced with increasingly cleaner technologies.

Paper and board packaging allow the product to reach the consumer intact and under adequate hygienic conditions. Moreover, they are an identical media for the Brand, and to provide information on the characteristics of the product (composition, expiry, using instructions …), as they provide the best printing conditions.

In underdeveloped countries, throughout the supply chain, losses of food products – to a fair extent due to lack of packaging – reach 50%, while in developed countries, this amounts to 2 or 3%. World Health Organisation

93% of consumers consider that paper and board packaging is the most ecological. Paper Survey in Spain. TECEL ESTUDIOS-SIGMADOS for EL FORO DEL PAPEL, April 2012

Deforestation is increasing, we are destroying the last forests
700,000 hectares more forest per annum in Europe

The global rate of deforestation is decreasing. Forest areas are growing in Europe

  • 31% of the total land area of the planet is covered by forests
  • 4,000 million hectares of forests
  • 0.6 hectares per inhabitant

The rate of deforestation is decreasing

The net loss of forests in the world has been reduced quite considerably: it has gone from 8.3 million hectares per annum in the 1990s to 5.2 million hectares per annum in the period 2000-2010. All this is due to the natural expansion of forests and to reforestation, to tree planting.

In the period 2000-2010, in Europe and Asia, forests have grown and in North and Central America they are maintained:

  • 7700,000 hectares more forest per annum in Europe
  • 2.2 million hectares more forest in per annum in Asia

FAO: Global Forest Resource Assessment. 2010

Spain is becoming a desert
European countries with most forests: Russia, Sweden, Finland and Spain

Spain is one of the countries in the world with the largest increase in forest area

The largest forest areas in Europe are those of Russia, Sweden, Finland, Spain and France.

FAO: Global Forest Resource Assessment. 2010

In Spain forests have increased.
1990 – 13.8 million hectares
2000 – 17.0 million hectares
2005 – 17.3 million hectares
2010 – 18.2 million hectares

DG Rural Development and Forestry Policy MAGRAMA

Annual growth of wood in Spain
46.3 million m3 w/b

Annual wood felling in Spain for all uses ⇒15,5 million m3 w/b ⇒ 33% annual growth in wood

ASPAPEL: Statistical report 2013

Forests are destroyed to make paper
Wood for paper is grown in plantations

More paper = More trees

Deforestation is largely due to conversion of forests to arable land.

FAO: Global Forest Resource Assessment, 2010

  • Paper is NOT manufactured from exotic species from tropical forests, nor from deciduous or evergreen oaks or beech.
  • The wood used for paper making are fast growing species (mainly eucalyptus and pine in Spain), that is purpose grown in forest plantations that are being continually regenerated and replanted and that would not otherwise exist.
  • The Spanish paper sector manufactures about two million tonnes of cellulose per annum, for which it uses about six million cubic metres of eucalyptus and pine wood, grown for that purpose in forest plantations, that are planted and maintained for that purpose

ASPAPEL: Statistical Report 2013

There are so many plantations: they are filling Spain with eucalyptus trees
Plantations for paper: 2.7% of the total area of forests in Spain

Paper plantations are established on fallow land and help to preserve the forests

Total area of woods: 18.2 million hectares. DG Rural Development and Forestry Policy MAGRAMA

Plantations of pine and eucalyptus for paper: 487,510 hectares ⇒ 2,7% of the total area. ASPAPEL: Update 2014 Sustainability Memorandum

The plantations are made on land that is fallow due to abandonment of agricultural crops so tree covered areas are increased due to the plantations.

Plantations of fast growing species, precisely due to that specific characteristic, allow the largest amount of wood to be obtained from the least area and thus preserve the forests.

Plantations are damaging to the environment
Paper plantations store 32 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent

Paper plantations are efficient carbon sinks

Plantations of fast growing species (eucalyptus, pine) are large CO  sinks and help to halt climate change. Once the wood reaches maturity, it ceases to capture carbon, so these productive plantations are an environmental opportunity. The 487,510 hectares of pine and eucalyptus plantations for paper store million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

DG of Rural Development and Forestry Policy MAGRAMA

The carbon stored is not released when the tree is felled, but rather remains in the forestry products. For example,  in  books,  the  paper  is  stored  for  decades  -and  generations-  in  our  libraries;  and  through recycling, the paper extends the term of that carbon sequestration.

1 kilo of paper stores 1.3 kilos of CO2,

depending on the proportion of cellulose fibres comprising it*

Plantations allow effective control of soil erosion thanks to their roots and help to regulate the water cycle through their branches and leaves that retain rain water, so it reaches the ground with less force, remains on the surface and gradually penetrates the deepest layers.

Plantations are managed sustainably, assuring maintenance of their ecological, social and economic functions, which is certified through forestry certification systems such as FSC, PEFC…

(*) According to the procedure to calculate CO  included in the paper -biogenic-.

Paper manufacturers are "dirty factories"
97% of the Spanish paper production is carried out under an Environmental Management System

The factories are environmentally very efficient

97% of the total production of the sector in Spain is carried out under an Environmental Management System (ISO or EMAS).

Energy efficiency

  • Mix of fuels: biomass (32%) and natural gas (65%).
  • The electric energy required to move the machinery and steam to dry the cellulose and paper is produced by the sector in cogeneration plants (1,135 MW of installed power) beside the factories. Cogeneration saves primary energy and reduces emissions. IDAE/ASPAPEL
  • Manufacturing all the paper a Spaniard consumes in one year produces less CO2 emissions than a single journey by car Madrid-Barcelona-Madrid. Facts by ASPAPEL and Pitney Bowes Inc.- The environmental Impact of Mail: A Baseline, 2008

Efficiency in water use

In the paper making process, water is used, it is not consumed. Only 5% of the water used is consumed and the remaining 95% is returned after purification.

Water use in the industrial process has been reduced by 22% since 2000 in total volume and effluent per tonne has decreased by 18% for cellulose and 57% for paper.

Efficiency in waste management in the process

77% of the waste materials in the process are recycled: energy recovery (27%), direct agricultural use (24%) composting (10%), cement industry (2%), ceramics industry (1%), raw materials in other industries (8%).

ASPAPEL: Update 2014 Sustainability Report

Recycling paper saves trees.
Paper wood comes from plantations dedicated exclusively to the manufacture of paper and would not exist otherwise.

The paper macro-sector as a forest based bio-industry, is the key sector of the new bio-economy

Bio-industries such as paper making from natural, renewable raw materials, that manufacture recyclable products with a smaller carbon footprint, are the industries of the future.

Europe  -and  Spain  in  particular-  have  good  weather  conditions  to  grow  wood  and  fallow  areas available due to abandonment of agricultural and husbandry tasks, all along with major development of the paper collection and recycling systems (the urban forest).

As a bio-industry, the paper macro-sector is taking a position as the key sector of the new low-carbon bio-economy, depending on efficient use of renewable, recyclable resources, to manufacture natural products with a large added value.

In the near future -one that work is already being carried out on- the factories in the paper chain shall be wood and recycled fibre based bio-refineries that, making highly efficient use of their raw materials, shall manufacture cellulose, paper and board, bioenergy and biofuels, biocomposites and a whole series of new forestry fibre based products.

CEPI-ASPAPEL Paper invents the future 2013

Paper is not an industry for developed countries
Largest paper producers: China, USA, Japan, Germany and Sweden

44% of the production worldwide is concentrated in Europe, USA and Canada

48% of the world production is concentrated in Europe, USA and Canada, with a clearly upward trend in Asia (China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India and Indonesia).


With 71 industrial plants, among which there are some of the most modern in Europe, Spain is the 6th paper producer and the 5th cellulose producer in the EU, as well as the 2nd largest European paper recycler, just behind Germany.

ASPAPEL: Statistical report 2013

The largest paper producers in the world
1º China
2º USA
3º Japan
4º Germany
5º Sweden
6º Republic of Korea
7º Canada
8º Finland
9º Brazil
10º Indonesia
11º India
12º Italy
13º France
14º Russia
15º Spain


Paper is a product of the past
91% of consumers cannot imagine life without paper

Renewable, recyclable bioproducts such as paper are the products of the future

Consumers, who are increasingly more aware of pressures on resources and the need for efficiency, demand increasing functionality of products and a lower carbon footprint. Renewable, recyclable, biodegradable bioproducts such as paper, able to produce the greatest added value from the initial raw materials, are the most suitable to satisfy the demands and expectations of the new consumers. CEPI-ASPAPEL Paper invents the future 2013

In a future already in sight, the paper macro-sector will manufacture a whole new generation of wood fibre bioproducts (textiles, cosmetics, paints and varnishes, insulation, composites…). CEPI-ASPAPEL Paper invents the future 2013

And the present paper products shall also be reinvented: intelligent packaging that tells you if the fruit is mature or whether or not you have taken your medicine; hygienic and sanitary products with the highest service, with new solutions for babies and the elderly; graphic papers integrated with computer solutions… CEPI-ASPAPEL Paper invents the future 2013

91% of consumers cannot imagine a life without paper and the majority (68%) are open to using new paper products such as paper batteries, intelligent packaging or cosmetics and medicines based on cellulose fibre. Paper Survey in Spain. TECEL ESTUDIOS-SIGMADOS for THE PAPER FORUM, April 2012

Paper is more polluting than other materials and media
The carbon footprint of paper is lower than that of other materials

Highly positive balance in favour of paper

Paper books and electronic books: Only by reading more than 33 e-books of 360 pages each one, during the life cycle of an electronic book, may the device become preferable to paper from the point of view of mitigating climate change. Centre for Sustainable Communications – Royal Institute of Technology KTH Sweden (Borggren & Moberg)
-Pappersbok och elektronisk bok pa läsplatta, 2010

Printed newspaper and digital newspaper: Reading a printed newspaper has less impact on global warming than reading the news on the Internet for 30 minutes. Centre for Sustainable Communications – Royal Institute of Technology KTH Sweden (Moberg, Johansson, Finnveden y Jonsson) – Screening environmental life cycle assessment of printed, web based and tablet e-paper newspaper, 2007

Electronic mail: Office e-mail users emit 131 kilos of CO2 equivalent per annum (including both spam as well as legitimate messages). McAfee – ICF International – The Carbon Footprint of email Spam Report, 2009

Postal mail (on paper): the emissions associated with postal mail received annually per home amount to 14 kilos of CO2, that are equivalent to the emissions of five cheeseburgers or a 70 kilometre car journey. EMIP European Mail industry Platform – The Fact of our Value Chain, 2009

Corrugated board packaging: If Spain were to replace reusable plastic packaging with corrugated board packaging, it would lower the annual CO2 emissions by 133,480 tonnes, as much as if 78,518 cars were taken off the road. José Luis Nueno y Pedro Videla – IESE – Analysis of the economic and environmental impact of corrugated board packaging industries compared with reusable plastic, 2009

Paper bags: The carbon footprint of Kraft paper bags is half those of LDPE (for a large bag, 41 grams of CO2 equivalent if paper compared with 87 grams if it is plastic; for a small bag, 14 grams of CO2 equivalent if paper and 28 grams if plastic). Asociación Cluster del Papel de Euskadi – Factor CO2 – Improving sustainability of the paper sector. Carbon footprint study of the paper sector in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country, 2009

Consumers no longer read on paper
92% of internet users read paper magazines and 82% read printed newspapers

According to the surveys, consumers want to continue to use paper media

According to the largest and most recent research into the matter, the Paper Survey in Stain conducted by TECEL ESTUDIOS-SIGMADOS for Foro del Papel in April 2012, with a thousand interviews  nationwide of respondents over 18 years old, the consumers emphasised the emotional values of the paper media and wished to continue to use it, considering it compatible with the electronic media:

  • They feel paper is nearer and more pleasant than other products and technologies (81%).
  • They defend that there should continue to be paper media for books (91%) and for
    newspapers and magazines (77%).
  • They consider that in a sustainable economy, it would be appropriate for printed books to cohabit with electronic books (87%).
  • They want to continue to receive their invoices and bank balances on paper (60%).

96% of internet users affirm they have read a magazine in the last six months: 60% opts to read magazines in both formats (paper and electronic), 32% only reads printed magazines and 4% only reads such publications on line. Survey AIMC Traditional magazines versus on line magazines 2012

A similar percentage (93%) affirms having read a newspaper in the lost month: 58% opts to read newspapers in both formats (paper and electronic), 24% only reads printed newspapers, and 11% only reads such publications on line. Survey AIMC Daily press and supplements 2014