There are plenty of myths both ancient and modern for people to believe if they wish.
The ancient ones include the existence of Unicorns and the existence of King Arthur’s Camelot and the round table. And the modern ones that claim Elvis Presley is still alive and the paper industry is destroying all forests on the planet.
I am in no position to confirm or deny the existence of Unicorns or Camelot, but I am reasonably sure the King is dead and I mean Elvis, not Arthur.
But one thing I know is a complete myth is the one claiming the paper industry is guilty of cutting down all the world’s forests and putting mankind in peril.
To be fair to those who believe in this myth, most of them are concerned about the destruction of the tropical rainforests often called the lungs of the planet Earth.
It is true the rain forests are being eroded by mankind, but the paper industry is not responsible for this erosion. Most of the wood from these forests are hardwoods and not suitable for paper making.
The main reason for the erosion of the rainforests is the growing need for agricultural land and the logging industry.
However, it is true the paper making industry does use a huge amount of wood pulp but it is obtained from a sustainable source and not from the tropical rain forests.
Where does the wood come from?
Over 90% of the wood used in paper making comes from Europe. Very few paper mills actually own forests but like the owners of forests but they are aware that wood is a valuable commodity in paper manufacturing: and they have no intention of letting it disappear.
To ensure there is always going to be a sustainable supply of wood, trees are continually grown and harvested in a strictly controlled way.
So strict is this control that European forests have increased in size every year over the past ten years by an area the size of Greece.
Who uses paper?
Paper is used in a variety of ways. It is used to make paper plates and cups, toilet tissues, toilet paper and stationery.
However, the industry that seems to attract most of the criticism is the printing industry. It seems the direct marketing arm of the industry, and that includes leaflet distribution, is singled out for the most vitriolic criticism.
This criticism is unfair as the printing industry uses paper that has been vetted by the F.S.C (Forest Stewardship Council) and this guarantees the paper come from a sustainable source. Many printers will display the FSC logo on their work to prove this.
Apart from paper approved by the FSC, much of the paper used by printers has been recycled and poses no threat to any forest.
Is the future electronic?
The ever increasing demand for the next best mobile phone, tablet or computer is putting increasing pressure on the environment. There is a projection from the National Safety Council that tells us there will be almost 250 million obsolete computers looking for disposal in the next few years while 130 million mobile phones are discarded every year.
These gadgets will never degrade as fast as any paper product. I am no scientist but if you buried a printed leaflet alongside an obsolete computer for six months, which one do think will have degraded when you dug them up?
In fact, 20-50 million tons of electronic waste is disposed every year and this figure is going to continue to grow. Perhaps the future is not electronic.
Below is a short video about the environmental myths of leaflet distribution.
Another fact to be considered is that the paper industry only uses 13% of the world’s wood. 50% is used for fuel while the construction and other industries take up the remaining 37%.
I can understand people’s concerns about deforestation, especially regarding the tropical rainforests, and there are organisations trying to address the problems facing these forests.
But with the FSC and other like-minded bodies monitoring the consumption and replanting of the trees used for paper making, deforestation is not a problem caused by paper manufacturing.
However, I wonder how many people who scan their computers while sitting at their tables or desks made from stripped pine, oak or mahogany and warming themselves by their wood-burning stoves, still believe the myth that the paper industry is responsible for destroying the world’s forests.