How Paper Carbon Footprints work

Climate change is becoming an increasingly important issue. To help our customers make climate-smart choices when buying paper, for the past ten years we have made climate calculations for our paper products from a life cycle perspective. This makes it easier for buyers to compare carbon dioxide emissions from different paper products. The emission level may differ not only between different suppliers, but also different types of paper. The climate footprint calculations, which are updated annually, also help us to identify where major emissions occur in the life cycle and to take appropriate measures.

Holmen uses the paper and pulp industry framework provided by the industry organisation CEPI for analysing carbon dioxide emissions. The framework contains ten toes that focus on different parts of the product life cycle – from raw material to recycling. We have chosen to focus on toes 2–7, which are the emission areas that we can influence, and thus do not include the carbon dioxide emissions created when the customer uses the product and during combustion. Our climate footprint calculation for each grade of paper provides an overview of how many kilograms of fossil carbon dioxide are emitted per tonne of paper during different parts of the chain.

Paper carbon dioxide emissions are divided among different toes

Toe 2: Carbon dioxide sequestration in the forest and in the product

Trees act as carbon sinks by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it. The carbon dioxide is not released until the paper is burned. But before that, the paper can be reused up to seven times. On average, a tonne of Holmen’s paper binds about 1 500 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

Toe 3: Carbon dioxide emissions from production

Emissions of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are low from our two paper mills. Hallsta paper mill phased out the last of its solid fuel boilers in 2014 and now the mill only uses electricity to produce steam for the paper machines, producing carbon dioxide emissions that are extremely low, about 2 kg per tonne of paper. At Braviken paper mill some incineration takes place during production, but here too the emissions are low, on average 15–20 kg per tonne of paper.

Toe 4: Carbon dioxide emissions from forestry

Included here are the emissions generated during forest management, planting and harvesting. On average, carbon dioxide emissions total 27–29 kg per tonne of paper.

Toe 5: Carbon dioxide emissions from other raw materials

In addition to pulp, fillers and chemicals are also needed to make paper. Production of certain chemicals accounts for significant carbon dioxide emissions. Depending on the chemicals used to bleach the paper, emissions can vary from 15 kg to 63 kg per tonne of paper. To reduce emissions, our paper mills work on using chemicals as efficiently as possible and using fresh wood in the manufacturing process, since it does not require as much bleaching.

Toe 6: Carbon dioxide emissions from purchased and sold energy

Production of thermo-mechanical pulp is energy intensive, but carbon dioxide emissions are still low thanks to the electricity purchased from fossil-free sources such as nuclear, water, solar and wind power. On average, emissions are about 17–18 kg per tonne of paper.

Toe 7: Carbon dioxide emissions from transports

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions from transport is a high-priority issue. Every day, a large number of trucks with wood and wood chips arrive at the paper mills, but a change has taken place – longer transports now travel by train or ship instead of by truck. On average, emissions resulting from incoming transports are around 15–20 kg per tonne of paper. The paper mills have also improved the debarking process so that a larger part of the wood can be used in the production process. This achievement has made it possible to reduce the amount of purchased wood, resulting in fewer transports.

The emissions generated by shipping paper reels to Holmen’s customers around the world have not been included, since they are difficult to estimate. However, continuous efforts to improve our approach to transports are underway and we evaluate and impose sustainability requirements on our suppliers.

Compare papers for a climate-smart choice

Anyone who is interested in comparing the climate footprint of different papers, or who wants to find out about carbon dioxide emissions for their paper purchases can find a report presenting the carbon footprint of all products from Holmen Paper free to download online. The emissions from the production of our paper vary between 82 and 172 kilograms per tonne of paper. For example, this can be compared to the 4.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide that an average Swede emits per year, or an average US climate footprint of 16.1 tonnes.