European Union reclassifying papers

The weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner

The European Union (EU) has a special board that, among other things, determines evaluation criteria for the EU Ecolabel for products and services. In January 2019 the outcome of their latest chat was published and makes for interesting reading (yes, really). Instead of having two separate classifications for copying and graphic paper, and newsprint paper, the two are to be merged to form a single product group called graphic paper to sit alongside the other product group which is tissue and tissue based products. The rationale for this is that the merging of graphic paper and newsprint reflects “scientific and market developments”, ie decline. The Commission Decision also removes the limit on weight that applied to the older product groups, so it now includes a wider range of more rigid papers.

The new classifications are about improving material efficiency but the decision also includes a ban on the use of certain hazardous chemicals. Graphic and tissue paper products can no longer include Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) nor can they have metal based pigments and dyes. SVHCs are chemicals which can cause cancer or genetic mutations, are toxic for reproduction, or that accumulate in organisms. SVHCs include chemicals such mercury and chlorine still used for bleaching in paper making.

The EU’s goal is also to reduce manufacturing emissions in papers that qualify for the EU Ecolabel, and the changes are intended to reflect innovations in paper manufacturing and recycling. The goal is to continue to improve pulp and paper processing in order to reduce the emission of polluting substances which contribute to climate change. It’s all about smoothing the transition to a more circular economy and encouraging less waste and pollution originating with pulp and paper making.

The EU’s decision is not likely to have an immediate and direct impact on printers and publishers. However it will require changes in the processing of recycled prints and in the making of new recycled papers. There is a fair to middling chance that the decision could reduce supply, which will inevitably lead to price rises. The other possible outcome, and the one intended, is to encourage pulp and paper makers to improve their processes and recipes to be more environmentally friendly.

– Laurel Brunner

This article was produced by the Verdigris Project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa GraphicsEFIFespaHPKodakKornitRicohSpindrift, Splash PRUnity Publishing and Xeikon.