Is paper dead? No, it never will be.
What is dying are the environmentally harmful processes by which paper is made and trees harvested. Nowadays you're seeing more and more third-party certifications that state how the paper was made, how its pulp was harvested, whether it's chlorine free, how much recycled content it has—all signs of how the paper industry is evolving into a more sustainable sector. Why is this happening? Because deforestation is the fourth largest cause of global warming.
Making Paper Sustainable
Paper is never going away, but the industry has been forever changed because of its massive environmental impact. The dirty paper production and printing processs of yesterday are being transformed by non-bleaching technology, cleaner de-inking processes, higher post-consumer recycled content, sustainable harvesting, soy and vegetable inks, and more. However, not all recycled papers are the same. Some forward-thinking paper manufacturers like New Leaf Paper led the charge to go green before "green" became popular. It has some of the highest-recycled-content paper in the world—and quite honestly, some of the nicest. But today, every paper mill has increased the percentage of recycled content in its papers; they're using more and more virgin pulp from sustainably harvested forests, too. When you hear "recycled paper," look for third-party certifications. You can see a breakdown of some of the more popular third-party certifiers on our certification page.
Paper recycling can be labeled in three categories: mill broke, pre-consumer waste (a.k.a. recycled paper) and post-consumer waste. Mill broke is nothing more than trimmings and scraps that are collected on site at the paper mill. Pre-consumer waste, or "recycled paper," is paper that has left the paper mill and is typically recovered from a printer as trimming or printed items that didn't survive the approval process. Post-consumer waste is any printed item that has reached the end consumer and been discarded. This is where we all need to concentrate most of our efforts. Why? Because this is the paper that would otherwise end up in landfills, instead of back in the paper-making stream. This is the paper that makes new virgin pulp necessary. So, the more post-consumer paper we use, the less goes to landfills—and the fewer trees need to be cut down to get virgin pulp.