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The Benefits of Virgin Fiber Paper

Written By Bobby Firestein

January 20, 2022

Are you prioritizing sustainability in your marketing campaigns? If so, choosing recycled paper might seem like the obvious choice. But is this the only option? Let’s look at five reasons virgin fiber remains a vital component of the paper lifecycle.

1. Virgin fiber protects our nation’s forests.

If your goal is to reduce your carbon footprint, recycled paper should be an important component of your strategy. After all, studies show that every ton of recycled paper saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill. If, however, your goal is to preserve our nation’s forests for future generations, you should consider paper made from virgin fiber.

Admittedly, that may sound strange at first. But consider that 58% of our nation’s forests are privately owned, and 89% of the timber harvested in the United States comes from private lands. When you purchase any type of forestry product, from paper to building supplies, those forests are generating revenue for their landowners. If the demand for forest products declines, so does forest revenue. If forests are no longer profitable, owners will eventually sell the land off for agriculture, development, or other more profitable uses.  

2. Virgin fiber grows trees.

Private landowners continually plant new trees to replenish their forests. In fact, in North America, we plant more trees than we harvest. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, between 1990 and 2020, net forest area in the US increased by approximately 18 million acres (that’s 1,200 NFL football fields!) every day.

Reforestation efforts underway

3. Virgin fiber ensures healthy forests.

Many paper companies support sustainable forestry practices that ensure the health of both the forest and the local wildlife. Professional foresters manage these forests to protect wildlife habitats, ensure water quality, and support overall forest health. Organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) help set and regulate these standards.

4. Virgin fiber is stronger.

We can only recycle paper five to seven times before the fibers break down. As fibers grow shorter and shorter, they lose strength, durability, and humidity resistance. That’s why, for some products (such as certain types of packaging), virgin fiber from sustainably managed forests is the better choice.

5. Virgin fiber maintains the paper supply.

Because paper has a limited lifecycle, recycled paper typically uses some percentage of virgin fiber to maintain its strength and durability. In order to maintain the supply of high-quality paper, we must continually introduce virgin fiber into the system.

Of course, paper mills do not harvest all virgin fiber the same way. In order to maintain your sustainability goals, look for paper that has been certified by FSC, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or another certifying body. These certifications ensure that any virgin fiber used to manufacture that paper came from a forest that meets rigorous environment standards. This allows you to use fresh, new fiber, while meeting your environmental commitment.

There’s more than one way to protect the environment. Whether you go the recycled paper or certified virgin fiber route, you can help protect our forests and support our resources for future generations. Your choice simply depends on which aspects of sustainability are most important to you.