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Water Myth  


As with many industries, water plays a big part in the paper production process. The majority of the water used in papermaking is ‘borrowed’ i.e. it is extracted, used, cleaned and returned to the environment or recycled in the papermaking process. It is very important to note that although water is needed for manufacturing paper, less than 15% is

actually consumed within the product or lost through evaporation.

Over 85% is cleaned and put back into rivers, estuaries or other watercourses – often cleaner than when it was taken out.  Between 2001 and 2011 the UK Paper Industry reduced its water usage by 24% per tonne of paper made.

Every paper mill has a unique water profile due to its location and the origins of its water, the destination of its effluent and the origin of its fibrous and non-fibrous raw materials.

Paper mills manage their water use, taking into account opportunities for water recovery and re-use. Targets are set and, with advances in technology, the amount of water needed has reduced.

Today, when looking at the sustainable use of water, we need to understand more about where and how the manufacture of paper impacts the availability of water, right through from raw materials to the final product. Water footprint looks at the amount of water needed throughout the production cycle of paper.

Results to date show that water for growing trees is the main contributor to the total water footprint of paper. In other words, most of the water needed to produce one sheet of A4 is used in the forest as part of the natural water cycle. According to a pilot study, 60% of paper’s water footprint is the water that is evaporated by trees as part of the natural water cycle10.

10 From forest to paper, the story of our water footprint – UPM Case Study, August 2011


......© Confederation of Paper Industries, 1 Rivenhall Road, Swindon, Wiltshire SN5 7BD