When paper is recycled, its ink, coating and unusable fibers are left as waste products. But FutureMark has developed a way of changing that.
These “waste” materials are high in calcium and, according to FutureMark, “…have nutritive properties similar to agricultural lime, which is a common fertilizer supplement.” So now, FutureMark connects 30,000 tons of this material to a farm supply group each year. Instead of being hauled to a landfill, it is used in landscaping applications. This also decreases the need for mining liming agents, and this alternative soil nutrient is just being PR happy talk, it is currently distributed through Prairie Lime of DeMotte.
FutureMark is also the one US company that can produce 100 percent recycled coated mechanical printing paper (think glossy magazines and catalogs). By comparison, most coated mechanical paper has only around 15 percent recycled content.
I asked FutureMark CEO Steve Silver why more companies aren’t using more recycled content.
His answer was pragmatic: The equipment to recycle and create paper costs between $200-300 million per paper mill. Between that, and the reality that companies aren’t able to charge much of a premium, there’s little incentive for companies not already in the market, to do so now.
Speaking to other industry sources, there’s an additional context: They say the paper industry has created a camouflage, making claims that sustainable forestry practices, such as those certified by the FSC are enough, deflating demand for recycled products.
But that argument misses a crucial point: You can take all these measures to prevent/reduce emissions, etc, but what takes care of what’s already there? Trees. They absorb and then emit cleaner air. A newly planted sapling to replace what’s been cut cannot do the same. If people were clear on this, they’d likely have much greater interest in recycled rather than “sustainable forestry” sourced paper.
Seeing how many types of things we presume are recyclable prove not to be, I asked if FutureMark’s glossy paper was recyclable. Yes, said Silver. An average of 7 times until it cannot be used for paper anymore.
With manufacturing processes that use 40 percent of the water and 2/3 the energy of comparable paper plants, it’s clear FutureMark is making substantial strides to being an increasingly sustainable company, but is it making much of an impact? Yes, thanks to Rachel Ray.
If you’re not familiar, she’s a popular cooking show host with a publication put out by Reader’s Digest. She pushed hard for use of recycled paper stock, and despite skepticism of quality and consistency, Reader’s Digest tried and have now committed more then 10 publications using FutureMark’s paper. With 2.5 million copies of Everyday with Rachel Ray alone, this is a substantial impact. FutureMark reuses 220 million pounds of waste annually.
There’s much more of this that could be done. For companies with the capital and the skills, interest by such mainstream publishers such as Readers Digest bodes well for a continued increase in the market for quality, comparably priced recycled paper.
Readers: How else can we reduce new use of trees? What other paper companies are excelling in terms of sustainability and quality? Are there any tree-free options you feel are comparable and made in sufficient quantities to warrant more then “deep green” interest? I look forward to your comments below.
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media.