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Environmental efforts made by the Japanese paper industry

Concept for Wood Procurement | Forest plantationConcept for Wood Procurement | Forest plantation

To make paper starting with making forest

Background of forest plantation

Wood, from which paper is made, is an excellent renewable resource that can regrow with the blessing of the sun (photosynthesis). Sustainable forest management is possible by promoting the cycle of harvesting followed by replanting. The Japanese paper industry believes that “we should make by ourselves the raw materials we use,” and “we should use them sustainably by promoting the natural cycle of forest resources.” Thus, the industry energetically promotes forest plantation activities in various parts of the world to ensure a stable supply of raw materials. Overseas forest plantation activities by the industry began during the 1970s and gained momentum during the 1990s. Currently, 31 projects are ongoing in 11 countries (see Fig. “Overseas Forest Plantation Projects by the Paper Industry”). As of the end of 2018, a cumulative total of 530,000 hectares of land have been planted (including 150,000 hectares in Japan), and the industry plans to increase the total area to 700,000 hectares by FY2020. Since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the remarkable CO2 absorption/fixation (“carbon sink”) capacity of forests has received particular attention. Forest plantation is all the more important because it is not just a question of stable securement of raw materials but also of contribution to protecting the environment.

Overseas forest plantation

Japanese paper companies have long since owned and planted forests to secure the raw materials in Japan. However, more than 60% of Japan’s land is forested, and so securing more land space for new forest plantation was difficult and too costly. Accordingly, they looked for available land in other countries.

Australia
Vietnam

Advantages of forest platntation activities outside Japan include relative ease in securing a sizable land space, flatness of the land and the resulting higher operation efficiency, lower costs and faster tree growth. In addition, overseas forest plantation activities help create local job opportunities and improve regional social infrastructure, thus making positive contributions to the local communities.

Overseas forest plantation by the Japanese paper industry

Renewal at appropriate intervals

The site selected for forest plantation projects are pasture, former pasture, shrubland, abandoned land and other low-use lands. With attention to local conditions, we plant eucalyptus, acacia and other fast-growing trees that are rich in fiber and suitable for paper making.
For instance, planting trees that become ready for harvesting in eight years is done in an area divided into eight lots. Each year, trees are planted in one of the eight lots. Eight years later, the trees in the first lot are harvested, and reforestation or coppicing is applied to the lot. In this way, the systematic cycle of seeding, planting, growth and maintenance, and harvesting is repeated. A constant harvest is ensured every year and the total forest area is secured sustainably (see Table 1).

Table1 Major plantation species
Hardwood
EucalyptEucalypt of
Myrtaceae
There are about 600 species and most are native to Australia. Fast-growing tree. Used as raw material for printing and communication paper etc.
AcaciaAcacia of
Mimosoideae of
Fabaceae
Fast-growing tree. Used as raw material for printing and communication paper etc.
Softwood
Radiata pinePinaceae of
Pinus
Used as raw material for newspapers and printing and communication paper etc.
Column Forest plantation contributes to prevention of global warming

Plants absorb and store carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. On the other hand, plants emit carbon dioxide by breathing. The growth of plants means that the amount of carbon dioxide absorption exceeds that of carbon dioxide emissions. In other words, young trees that continue to grow are more capable of absorbing carbon dioxide than adult trees which have almost stopped growing. There are always many young trees in the plantations, contributing to the reduction of carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming.

Column Bringing out the potential of trees

In order to implement forest plantations more efficiently, it is important to develop trees suitable as raw material for papermaking, such as fast growing and high-fiber ones. Japanese paper companies have already produced excellent seedlings by selectively breeding trees that adapt to the climate conditions of places where plantations are implemented and tissue culture, as well as have been promoting the research and development of trees with less lignin and higher cellulose content. They also focus on the development of tree species that have excellent resistance to disease and insect pest, cold, drought, acid and salt damage. If these species are put into practical use, we can establish forests on the lands where trees cannot grow.