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Study shows public support for paper, but environmental education needed


June 26, 2019
By P&PC Staff

The results of a new survey commissioned by paper advocacy group Two Sides reveal that the North American public largely believes in the use of paper products, but that it has some misconceptions about the pulp and paper industry.

Two Sides is a global independent non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use, and sustainability of print and paper. The study was conducted by independent research company Toluna, who surveyed consumers from across the U.S. (2,094 respondents) and Canada (1,044 respondents) on environmental topics and preferences relating to paper and print.

Environment

The survey indicates that consumers are concerned about the environment, but there are some gaps between consumer environmental perceptions and facts. According to Two Sides, this is particularly evident for questions related to forest management and recycling.

Fifty-eight per cent of U.S. consumers surveyed believe U.S. forests have been decreasing in size since the year 2000. But U.S. forests have had a net growth of over 1,500 NFL football fields per day since 2000.

Fifteen per cent of Americans and 21 per cent of Canadians think the paper recovery rate exceeds 60 per cent. The paper recovery rate is over 68 per cent in the U.S and 70 per cent in Canada.

Out of six choices, Americans and Canadians rank urban development (first), construction (second) and pulp and paper (third) as having the most impact on global deforestation. Agriculture was ranked as having the least impact. However, according to Two Sides, agriculture is the top cause of global deforestation and, in most developed countries such as the U.S. and Canada, pulp and paper is not a cause of forest loss due to government regulations, sustainable forestry practices and forest certification programs.

When it comes to paper purchasing behavior, 70 per cent of Americans and Canadians believe it is important to use paper products from sustainably managed forests. However, only 22-27 per cent pay attention to forest certification labels when purchasing paper.

Out of eight common materials and products, wood is considered the most environmentally friendly material, followed by paper and glass. Plastic and electronic devices are considered the least environmentally friendly.

Preferences

When it comes to reading books, magazines and newspapers, print is preferred over digital.

  • 68 per cent of Americans and Canadians believe print is the most enjoyable way to read books.
  • 65 per cent of Americans and 59 per cent of Canadians prefer to read magazines in print.
  • 53 per cent of Americans and 49 per cent of Canadians prefer to read newspapers in print.

Further to print being the preferred medium for reading, the digital push by many corporate service providers (ex: banks, telecoms, utilities, insurance) appears to be unpopular with many consumers. Eighty-two per cent of Canadians and 86 per cent of Americans believe they should have the right to choose how they receive their communications (electronically or printed), and a further 66 per cent (Canada) to 74 per cent (U.S.) agree they should not be charged to receive paper statements.

“It is great to see that print as a communications medium is still preferred by many consumers,” says Phil Riebel, president of Two Sides North America, in a release. “Clearly, people also recognize the sustainable features of paper when compared to many other products, especially electronics and plastic. However, there is a need to educate consumers on sustainable forestry practices, the real causes of deforestation and the great recycling story of print and paper.”

Other key findings

  • 71 per cent of Americans and 68 per cent of Canadians believe in the importance of “switching off” their digital devices and reading more in print.
  • 49 per cent of U.S. and 46 per cent of Canadian consumers believe they spend too much time on electronic devices, and over half (53 per cent and 52 per cent, respectively) are concerned that the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging to their health.
  • 85 per cent of U.S. and 80 per cent of Canadian consumers believe they should have the right to revert to paper-based communications even after switching to digital.
  • 54 per cent of U.S. and 56 per cent of Canadian consumers believe only recycled paper should be used to make paper products. Two Sides notes that wood fibre from well-managed forests is essential to papermaking because recycled fibre breaks down after each use and can only be reused five to seven times.
  • 29 per cent of U.S. and 26 per cent of Canadian consumers believe paper production is a major cause of global GHG emissions. According to Two Sides, the pulp, paper and print industries are a low contributor to the global greenhouse gas inventory with one per cent of total global GHG emissions.