EU wood products industry must advertise its environmental success

The European forest-based and related industries (FB-IND) have been told to mount public awareness campaigns to tell the EU public just how 'green' the sector has become.

The European Commission has published a Communication on the state of the competitiveness of the EU forest-based and related industries. It recommends a series of campaigns to update the public’s perceptions. FB-INDs are “amongst the most sustainable industrial sectors in the EU,” says the Communication. “These campaigns should demonstrate in particular the sector’s use of renewable raw materials, their energy efficiency, their well-developed recycling and energy recovery capacities as well as the industry’s contribution to carbon trapping and storage.”

Despite the sustainable nature of much of the FB-IND sector, the Communication acknowledges that more can be accomplished. It supports the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests’ recommendation for the formation of National or Sub-national Forest Programmes. Such programmes should act to enhance and extend existing sustainable forest management.

Estimates have shown that sustainable forest management designation adds between 8 and 20% to the cost of wood as a raw material.

Another area where further improvement is possible is emission reduction. Improved techniques and processes have reduced FB-INDs’ greenhouse gas emissions, but the application of Best Available Techniques (BATs) as defined under the IPPC Directive should reduce emissions even more. A BAT reference document will be published for each sector by the EC, and application of the document’s suggestions should have a particular effect on the pulp and paper industry.

Although recovery and recycling are FB-IND’s strength, the Communication says that research is needed into the best option for end disposal of materials. Firms need to know which methods and forms – gaseous, liquid or solid – of materials disposal will result in the lowest greenhouse gas emissions.

Another area where research is needed is recyclability of wood, paper and board products – either as new materials or as energy sources. Life-cycle analysis is required to measure the environmental improvements offered by any recycling option.

Further improvements in energy efficiency are likely to be small, according to the Communication, given the efforts already undertaken by FB-INDs. Nonetheless, “energy recovery through the incineration of wood and paper waste, which form renewable energy resources, should be encouraged as a way to further decrease the use of fossil fuels,” says the Communication.

Referring to the EU commitment to increasing renewable energies’ share of the energy market to 12% by 2010, the Communication states that “most of the increase will come from bio-mass. Since wood is the common raw material of the FB-IND, the need to secure a reliable and permanent supply of wood has become an even greater challenge”.

Communication on the state of the competitiveness of the EU forest-based and related industries was published by the EC Directorate General for Enterprise, as supplement to the Europe Environment journal, number 555.

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