Paper manufacturing efficient design and resource use
The paper and cardboard industry uses significant quantities of resources such as raw materials and water, as well as much of the recovered waste paper that is collected in the UK. The industry includes paper and paperboard manufacturers, and businesses that produce paper and paperboard products. It also includes businesses that carry out finishing activities, such as coating, covering, laminating and embossing paper or cardboard.
Using resources efficiently in your paper and cardboard production business will save you money and could reduce your impact on the environment. You may also be able to introduce new technologies to make your processes more efficient and reduce your environmental impact.
This guide describes your responsibilities if you produce packaging or dispose of packaging waste. It provides guidance on managing your environmental performance, using environmental labels and making environmental claims, and business innovation and product development. It also includes guidance on using raw materials, using water efficiently and reducing, reusing and recycling waste.
Paper manufacturing environmental performance management
Whatever the size of your paper or cardboard business, it has an impact on the environment. You can take practical steps to manage your environmental performance and save money at the same time. This can help you improve and maintain your reputation and win new business. It can help you communicate to your customers and staff that you comply with legislation, and that you care about your impact on the environment.
Use an environmental management system (EMS)
You can use an EMS to help you identify your business' environmental impacts and work out ways to reduce them, for example by using less energy or water, or producing less waste. This can help you to improve your environmental performance. Your EMS should be appropriate to the type and size of your business activities - see environmental management systems (EMS) - the basics.
Report on your environmental performance
Your business can benefit from improving, and reporting on, its environmental performance. For example, reporting will:
- give you information about your current performance and whether you are complying with legislation
- identify where you could improve your activities, use resources more efficiently and save money
- involve your staff and help increase their environmental awareness
- demonstrate your commitment to improving your environmental performance to your staff, customers and the public
You should involve your staff and document the progress you are making to minimise your environmental impact.
You can find out how to measure and report on your business' environmental performance in our guide on how to produce environmental reports for your business.
Manage your purchases
The goods and services you buy - such as raw materials for your production process, office supplies and catering, cleaning and utility services - all have an impact on the environment. You can reduce this environmental impact and your costs by following green or sustainable procurement practices.
When buying a product or service, you should consider the environmental impact during its full life cycle, including:
- what raw materials are used to manufacture the product or provide the service
- how the product is produced and the energy used
- how the product or service will perform in use, eg if it will use energy or water, or produce waste
- how much it will cost to dispose of the product and the environmental impact of disposal
- the potential for reusing or recycling the product
- the environmental performance of your suppliers
Before buying any products, consider first whether you need to buy the goods or service at all.
Communicate with your staff
Encourage all your staff to work together to improve the business' environmental performance. The day-to-day actions of your staff can reduce your environmental impact significantly. Ask someone to volunteer at your site as an environmental champion.
Engage with senior management to gain their support for environmental policies.
Raise awareness among staff about your policies and update them regularly on your progress and what you've achieved to help keep them engaged - see making the case for environmental improvements.
Paper and cardboard manufacturing innovation
Innovative technologies, products, processes or services may improve your business. Some green technologies may also benefit the environment and are supported by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
However, before you use or develop innovative technologies or products of any type you need to consider their environmental impacts. The impacts of innovation can be unknown and you may need to take steps to comply with the law and protect the environment.
Business and technological innovation includes new:
- uses of waste
- waste recycling or reprocessing activities
- wastewater treatment methods
- approaches to cleaning up land contamination or water pollution
- environmental and clean technologies
- uses of chemistry and chemicals
- uses of biotechnology or nanotechnology
If you are considering developing or using innovative products or processes, you should contact the NIEA as early as possible so that they can advise if there is anything you need to do, before you invest any money. You must make sure that you have all the appropriate permits, licences and exemptions in place before you start developing your product or process and trialling activities.
Field trials and testing
If you plan to carry out field trials on your product or process you should contact your local NIEA office.
Environmental and clean technology
Environmental and clean technologies are products or services that reduce the risk of harming the environment, minimise pollution, minimise the amount of materials used or correct environmental damage.
You may be able to improve your products or services by using clean technologies.
Waste controls on your activities
If any of your business activities produce waste, including waste from research or trials, you need to comply with your duty of care. If your waste is classed as hazardous waste, extra requirements will apply - see waste and hazardous substance responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.
If you store, treat or dispose of waste, even as part of research or trials, you may need a permit, licence or exemption from the NIEA.
You must have the appropriate paperwork in place before you start your activities.
If you store samples of waste for testing or research, you may be able to register an exemption from waste management licensing. This is a paragraph 38 exemption.
Controlling air pollution and preventing water pollution
If your activities release emissions to air or the water environment, you may need a permit, authorisation or consent from the NIEA, your district council or your water and sewerage company.
Paper and cardboard products environmental labels and claims
How to use environmental labels and claims to benefit your business and the environment
Environmental or 'green' labels provide information about the environmental characteristics of products or services. You can use labels and logos to communicate information to your customers.
There are many ecolabels and logos which cover a wide range of environmental impacts across the life cycle of a product or service. Some focus on one environmental aspect, for example recycled content, while others cover several aspects of environmental and social responsibility.
Using an environmental label, logo or claim on your paper product can encourage environmentally responsible customers to choose your product and give you a competitive edge.
Make accurate environmental claims
Environmental labelling is voluntary for paper products. However, if you do choose to make environmental claims, you must be able to justify the claims that you make. If you make a false or misleading claim, Trading Standards or the Advertising Standards Authority could take action against you - see making environmental claims.
Label your products
Before you can use an environmental label or logo on your product, you must meet the criteria for that scheme. You will need to apply to the body or organisation running the scheme and they must accept your product into the scheme before you display the label or logo on your product.
There are lots of different labelling schemes, so several may be suitable for your product. You should assess the schemes to identify the one that best suits your product and your business needs.
The following independently certified schemes are relevant to paper and cardboard products:
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
- Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC)
- Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
- European Ecolabel
If you want to join a scheme, your product must meet strict levels of environmental performance and will need to be independently certified.
There are also national schemes, which are available globally, including: Nordic Swan (Scandinavia), Blue Angel (Germany), Environmentally Friendly (Croatia), Good Environmental Choice (Sweden), Environmentally Friendly Products (Czech Republic).
Use recycled content labels
You can use recognised logos to identify the recycled content of products and packaging, and to inform users how the products and packaging can be recycled. These include:
- Mobius loop
- Recycle Now logo
- National Association of Paper Merchants approved recycled marks
Before you use these or any other logos or labels, you must make sure that you comply with all rules on their use. Find green claims guidance on the GOV.UK website.
Specifications for marking recycled paperboard are set out in British Standard BS 7500: 1995. Buy copies of British Standard BS 7500 1995 on the British Standards Institution (BSI) website.
Use British Standards for environmental labels and claims
You may also find the following British Standards useful:
- BS EN ISO 14020: 2001 - Environmental labels and declarations - General principles
- BS EN ISO 14024: 2001 - Environmental labels and declarations - Type I environmental labelling, principles and procedures
- BS EN ISO 14021: 2001 - Environmental labels and declarations - Self-declared environmental claims (Type II environmental labelling)
- BS EN ISO 14025: 2010 - Environmental labels and declarations - Type III environmental declarations, principles and procedures
Paper and cardboard manufacturer packaging obligations
If you place packaging on the market you are responsible for ensuring that it meets environmental standards. If you place large amounts of packaging on the market, you are also responsible for the cost of recovering and recycling a calculated amount of the packaging when it becomes waste, based on the amount you create.
Your paper and cardboard business may manufacture or handle packaging products, such as containers and filling. You may also produce packaging waste.
If you produce, fill, supply or handle packaging the packaging regulations will affect you.
Producing and supplying packaging and packaged products
If your business produces packaged products, imports packaged goods into the UK or places packaging or packaged goods on the market, you must:
- not exceed limits on concentrations of certain heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury in your packaging
- use the minimum packaging necessary
- produce packaging that can be reused, recovered or recycled
- keep records for four years as evidence that you are complying
These requirements are enforced by the Department for the Economy - see packaging design and use - your environmental responsibilities.
You must also comply with the duty of care for waste - see waste responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.
Your obligations for packaging waste
If your business handles, manufactures, converts, packs, fills, supplies, leases, hires or imports over 50 tonnes of packaging or packaging materials in a year and has a turnover exceeding £2 million per year, you must:
- register with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), either directly or through a compliance scheme
- pay for the recovery and recycling of a certain amount of packaging waste
- provide the NIEA with evidence that you have met your obligations - if you are a member of a compliance scheme they will do this on your behalf
To store any packaging waste before it is recycled you may need an exemption from waste management licensing - see waste permits, licences, exemptions and pre-notification for paper and cardboard producers.
Reducing and recycling your packaging waste can help you to comply with packaging legislation and cut costs - see how to reduce, reuse and recycle packaging.
Paper and cardboard manufacturing: efficient use of raw materials
The raw materials and substances used in paper and cardboard businesses all have an impact on the environment. By carefully selecting your raw materials, you can reduce this impact and cut your costs.
You must store and handle raw materials carefully at all stages of processing and manufacture. If you cause pollution to air, land or water you are committing an offence.
Use safety data sheets (SDSs)
A safety data sheet (SDS) must accompany any material supplied to you that contains hazardous substances. The SDS gives information on how to handle, store and dispose of chemicals.
If you use chemicals or chemical products, you must make all your staff aware of the SDS for any hazardous substance or mixtures they handle, store or dispose of. If you receive a chemical without an SDS, contact your supplier to find out whether or not they have to provide one.
Store substances safely to avoid pollution
Oil and chemicals can be particularly damaging to human health and the environment. You must store and handle these appropriately to prevent pollution - see fuel and oil use responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers and chemical and REACH responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.
Make sure that your material handling and storage areas do not cause air, noise or water pollution - see how to prevent pollution from paper and cardboard production.
Select less hazardous raw materials
Audit the raw materials that you use in your process. If you use any hazardous substances, consider using alternative less hazardous materials and practices, for example use:
- elemental chlorine free (ECF) and totally chlorine free (TCF) grades of pulp from reputable suppliers
- pesticide-free feedstock
- environmentally friendly adhesives
- water-based coatings in place of solvent-based ones
- biocides that degrade rapidly, eg guanidine and isothiazolones
- chemicals with high biodegradability, eg use diethylene triamine pentaacetic acid as a chelant in place of ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid or nitrilotriacetic acid
- low mercury sodium hydroxide
- chalk rather than clay as a filler, if it is compatible with the paper specification, as chalk retains water more efficiently
- timber, wood chips or hemp that have been sprayed with harmful substances such as lindane or pentachlorophenol
- alkylphenol ethoxylates
- elemental chlorine
Consider sourcing materials that are certified by an environmental label or logo. Products displaying an environmental label must meet strict requirements covering a range of environmental impacts - see environmental labels and claims for paper and cardboard products.
Consider the whole life cycle of the materials that you source, including the impacts of the raw material, your production process, the final product and its disposal. For example:
- Is the material delivered in reusable packaging?
- Does the material reduce the amount of waste that you produce?
- Does the material reduce the amount of energy or water that your process requires?
Select materials that make it easier for you to minimise, reuse and recycle your waste. For example, use materials delivered in pulpable bags, if they are suitable for your grade of paper. Contact your suppliers for help with choosing suitable materials.
Return pallets and packaging to your suppliers so that they can reuse them. Alternatively, you could reuse pallets and packaging around your site, or to dispatch your own products.
Use your raw materials as efficiently as possible to reduce the amount of waste you produce - see waste reduction and recycling from paper and cardboard production.
Paper and cardboard manufacturing waste reduction
The cheapest and most environmentally friendly way to deal with your waste is to reduce the amount that you produce. You should also look for opportunities to reuse and recycle materials.
By reducing, reusing and recycling your waste you can:
- save money on your waste bills
- reduce costs of managing and handling your waste
- improve your environmental performance
- improve your reputation with staff, customers and the public
Your waste responsibilities in paper manufacturing
If your business produces or handles waste, certain waste responsibilities apply to you, even if you recycle materials such as:
- wood chips
- paper sludge
- broke (paper formed on the machine that is unusable)
- paper trim
If you store waste on your site you must make sure that it is stored safely and legally - see waste responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.
If you carry out certain waste recycling, reuse and recovery activities, you may need a permit, licence or waste exemption from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) - see waste permits, licences, exemptions and pre-notification for paper and cardboard producers.
Plan your process
Select your raw materials carefully to reduce your environmental impact and cut your costs - see raw material use in paper and cardboard production.
Review the web widths you stock regularly to ensure that they are the most appropriate for the range of cut sizes required. This will reduce trim waste.
In the collation process, each reel change causes waste, so you should run the largest reels possible to minimise changeover. Standardise your reel lengths so that all reels are changed together. This helps to minimise stoppage times and waste.
The risk of breaking the web may lead to unnecessary caution in running reel cores out. Introduce better speed control and get your operators to record core waste.
Plan coating mix quantities carefully and monitor print quality during the run.
Help your customers to specify the correct thickness of paper or articles.
If you set your sheet counters to count a few extra sheets for safety, check your counters are working properly.
To recover and recycle waste in your process, you could:
- recover and reuse filler
- collect and reuse or recycle any broke
- recover and recycle excess coating material
- recycle wastes such as baling wires
- recycle process water to recover lost fibres - this will recover product, reduce materials additions and decrease waste
- recycle small quantities of unseparated solids for further pulping
- if possible, recover fibre from sludge and reuse it in your processes
Monitor and manage your waste
- Evaluate the amount of waste you produce. This will help you to identify where you can make savings.
- Train staff in good waste management and encourage them to contribute ideas.
- Carry out regular quality checks. This will enable you to reduce the amount of off-specification material you produce.
- Set challenging targets to reduce your waste, eg by 10 per cent in a year. This will help motivate you and your staff to make these savings.
- Label rubbish containers clearly with the type of waste that can be put in each one. This will make it easier for your staff to put your plans into action.
- Keep each waste type separate and bale it if possible. This will reduce the amount of waste treatment required and could lower your transport and waste management charges.
Consider repairing or upgrading existing equipment instead of replacing it - see reduce your business waste to save money.
Paper manufacturer water use responsibilities
The paper industry uses large volumes of water in the production process, for example as a fibre carrier and solvent. You should reuse water within your process wherever possible.
Check if you need an abstraction or impoundment licence
If you take (abstract) water from surface waters or groundwater you may need to get an abstraction licence from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
If you store (impound) water, for example to create a reservoir, you may need an impoundment licence from the NIEA - see water use authorisations for paper and cardboard producers.
Good practice for saving water
You could save up to 30 per cent of your business' water costs, and help to preserve water resources and protect the water environment, by taking simple low cost steps to cut your water use.
You have to pay for the water you use, and also for:
- disposal of your wastewater, either as a percentage of the amount of water you use or by the strength of your effluent
- losses due to leaks and wasteful appliances
- energy you use to heat or cool water
- staff time spent wasting water, for example excessive washing down
- pumping, storing and additional treatment costs
- materials or products lost in wastewater
- meter size charges
Monitor your water use to help you use water more efficiently. Install water meters and read them regularly. This will help you to identify areas where you can save water, and will help you to spot leaks quickly. A sudden or unexplained increase in water use can indicate a leak.
Set challenging targets to reduce water use - for example by 10 per cent in a year. This will help motivate you and your staff to make these savings.
You can take steps to save water, from using low cost equipment to changing how you use water. For example:
- Reduce your water costs by reusing water, eg for cleaning. This will reduce the amount of fresh water and chemicals you use and the quantity of effluent you produce.
- Reuse water by cleaning effluent with ultra-filtration or other methods.
- Control water consumption by using vacuum, scraping and mopping techniques rather than washing down. If you wash down, use hoses with spray gun attachments.
- When you cannot recycle wastewater any further, you should treat it in a wastewater treatment plant before you discharge it.
When using these water saving methods, you must make sure that your water discharges continue to meet the conditions of your discharge authorisation. Reducing your water use can increase the concentration of your discharges - see wastewater treatment responsibilities for paper and cardboard producers.
For more water saving tips, see how to save water at industrial premises.