Getting Greener – Forestry Practices of Paper Mills

13 August 20220

The paper industry is blamed for deforestation and the felling of trees. We often receive e-mails with the tagline “Please consider the environment before printing this email” or “Save Paper — Think Before you Print”. However, the scenario is not what it looks like.

It’s true that paper requires cellulose pulp and fibers from trees but that is just the tip of the iceberg. While wood accounts for 21-22 percent of raw material usage, non-wood sources including wastepaper and agro residue-based account for 70 percent and 8 percent, respectively (according to the CPPRI report of 2019-20).

Sustainable Story of Paper Mills

The paper industry in India is not based on the forest but on agro/farm forestry. Just like any other crop, the trees are grown by farmers on their lands and their harvest is sold to paper mills. A large part of this wood is grown in the land which is usually considered unfit for other use and the tree saplings are drought-resistant and can be grown in different climatic conditions. This not only turns unproductive land into pulpwood plantations but also generates employment.

Talking about ITC’s Afforestation Programme, Mr. Sanjay Singh, Group Head – Paper & Packaging at ITC Ltd. says, “The programme assists farmers to turn their unproductive land assets into profitable pulpwood plantations, using clonal saplings specially developed by ITC R&D to grow in harsh conditions. Every year, we are planting 15 to 20 thousand hectares of plantation on farmers’ land which is way more than our requirements.”

Besides this, ITC has set up a state-of-the-art clonal production facility spread over 30 acres of land, near its Bhadrachalam unit. The clonal production centre was commissioned in the year 2013 with a production capacity of 15 million saplings and is the largest facility for pulpwood tree species clonal nursery in India.

The large-scale paper mills in India aim to plant more trees than they consume. “We are consuming around 3 lakh MT of wood and plywood waste per annum whereas we are now supplying clones and seed sapling for plantation in around 25000-hectare area generating 35 lakh MT of wood per year. Our social forestry activities for the generation of wood are more than 10 times and much surpassing our annual consumption,” says Mr. Madhukar Mishra, Managing Director, Star Paper Mills Ltd.

Promoting Agro/Farm Forestry

Meanwhile, the budget proposal for a policy initiative to promote agroforestry in the country is expected to provide an impetus to the agro/farm forestry drive of the paper mills.

“We greatly welcome the statement of the Finance Minister that policies and required legislative changes to promote agroforestry and private forestry will be brought in. Despite the tremendous efforts of the paper industry in promoting plantations in the country, the availability of wood domestically is inadequate compared to the demand of India’s paper industry,” said Mr. AS Mehta, President, Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA), and President & Executive Director, JK Paper Ltd.

“Pioneering work has been carried out by the paper industry over the last three decades in promoting agro/farm forestry in the country. In India, an estimated 5 lakh farmers are engaged in growing plantations and around 12 lakh hectares on a cumulative basis across the country have been brought under plantations due to intensive efforts mounted by paper mills over the last several years,” he added.

The paper industry in India is wood-positive – it grows more trees than it uses. Thus, it won’t be wrong to say that for every tree that is cut, several are planted in its place. Interestingly, not just wood-based paper mills, bagasse, and recycled-paper-based mills are also engaged in the plantation of trees as they see this as a necessary investment in the future as a safeguard against raw material and fuel availability

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