Paper Life Cycle: Transportation and Climate Change

July 2015

Distance to the mill

The location of the paper mill relative to the fiber source is an important factor in determining whether recovered or virgin fiber is the better environmental choice.

Transporting recovered material from urban areas to distant manufacturing facilities incurs additional costs and has its own environmental impact such as CO2 from burning fossil fuel and other pollutants. The distance that fiber must travel to a manufacturing facility and, in turn, to the customer is a key factor to consider in the decision regarding fiber supply, especially in regard to overall carbon emissions. Taking into account the life cycle of paper, paper buyers may find that carbon emissions at the mill far outweigh carbon emissions from transportation and should pay particular attention to energy used in manufacturing when evaluating total carbon footprint.

Transportation as an industry sector

Behind the electricity generation sector, the transportation sector represents the second-largest source of GHG emissions in the U.S. and the single-largest source in Canada. As the respective governments look to reduce GHG emissions, a solution will need to be developed to limit the transportation sector’s environmental footprint.