The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) board of directors announced advocacy priorities the association will pursue to ensure the pulp, paper, packaging, tissue and wood products industry’s continued growth and ability to create American manufacturing jobs.
“President Biden has laid out an ambitious agenda to ‘Build Back Better,’ creating job and economic opportunities for all Americans while protecting the future of our planet,” says AF&PA president and CEO Heidi Brock. “Our members are committed to environmental stewardship across the value chain — from the raw, renewable wood fiber that is harvested to the energy and water used in the manufacturing process to the recovery of paper and paper-based packaging that is used to make new products. Policy conversations related to worker safety, sustainability and paper recycling will strengthen our industry’s ability to provide consumers with essential, sustainable and recyclable paper products.”
Michael Doss, Graphic Packaging International, LLC, president and CEO and AF&PA board chair, says, “For the last decade, our industry has led with a comprehensive set of quantifiable sustainability goals, known as Better Practices, Better Planet. These goals recognize the three essential pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social; interdependent factors that collectively support long-term viability, growth and improvement. As a top 10 manufacturing employer in 45 states across the country, we have an impressive track record of leadership in safety, environmental and forest stewardship. It is imperative the U.S. Congress, state legislatures and other stakeholders continue to recognize our industry and people — the approximately 950,000 individuals of the forest products industry — as essential.”
The following are AF&PA’s 2021 advocacy priorities:
COVID-19: An Essential Industry Working Safely during Pandemic Response
According to AF&PA, members are committed to the safety of the industry’s essential workforce and end-users. AF&PA remains engaged during the pandemic to address critical issues as they arise and will take proactive measures to ensure the success of the industry. AF&PA members are reportedly working to respond safely and efficiently to spikes in demand, from boxes and paper bags to transport goods to tissue products.
AF&PA adopted a comprehensive, quantifiable set of sustainability goals in 2010. The initiative is a condition of membership and demonstrates AF&PA members’ commitment to sustainability. To date, AF&PA members have surpassed three goals related to worker safety, greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency and have achieved the goal for sustainable forestry. AF&PA says it will launch 2030 goals that build on sustainability successes to further advance the paper and wood products industry into the coming decade.
Sustainable Manufacturing Advancing the Circular Economy
The paper and wood products industry is a significant contributor to the broader circular economy. AF&PA advocates for policies promoting continued progress in meeting the challenge of our changing climate, air quality, water stewardship, product stewardship and health and safety, while maintaining the competitiveness of the industry. It says these policies should recognize that the industry is based on a renewable and recyclable resource and that bio-based products are manufactured with bioenergy, improved efficiency and recycled at a rate far higher than other major commodities.
Continued Success for Paper Recycling
The paper industry has a demonstrated success in making products more circular and sustainable through market-based approaches. In 2019, the paper-recycling rate was 66.2%, and the recycling rate for old corrugated containers (OCC) was 92.0%. The three-year average recycling rate for OCC is 92.3%. Paper and paper-based packaging are the most recycled materials by weight from municipal waste streams in the U.S. today. U.S. packaging and pulp producers are also committed to investing more than $4.1 billion in manufacturing infrastructure, from 2019-2023, to continue the best use of recovered fiber in manufacturing our products. Efforts to ban, tax or restrict access to paper products are counterproductive to this achievement and discourage the use of products that are recyclable, compostable, reusable and made from renewable and recycled material. AF&PA supports efforts that recognize educating consumers on the right ways to recycle as one of the best ways we can increase the quantity and quality of paper in the recycling stream.
Keeping Forests as Forests
The U.S. grows more wood than it harvests. U.S. forest products manufacturers take steps to promote sustainable forestry and procure wood fiber from certified forestlands and through certified sourcing programs. Moreover, members procuring fiber must adhere to Sustainable Procurement Principles that also promote sustainable forest management practices. Paper and wood products manufacturers use as much of the tree as possible to make paper, packaging and wood products, while remaining residuals are used as a renewable energy source (biomass) to power mills. AF&PA reportedly advocates for science-based policies that acknowledge renewable biomass and provide regulatory certainty to level the playing field for global competition and the protection of rural American jobs. Together, these sustainable practices ensure the industry’s fiber supply is protected while also helping mitigate one of the major factors of wildfire risk. Strong markets for paper and wood products also gives private forest owners confidence to continue replanting trees. And demand for these products increases the incentive to replant trees, decreasing the likelihood of conversion to other uses.
Paper and wood products manufacturers face a nationwide shortage of transportation capacity, an aging infrastructure and inefficient surface transportation policies. As a result, connecting our products, raw materials and consumers is reportedly difficult and costly. AF&PA encourages necessary infrastructure enhancements, such as policies to enhance trucking efficiency including safely increasing weight limits on federal interstate highways.
In addition to these priorities, AF&PA says it remains engaged in important advocacy discussions related to international trade, tax and sustainable regulation to allow our industry to compete in a global marketplace.
Visit www.afandpa.org for more information.