Over the past decade, the pulp and paper industry has experienced first hand the ramifications of a growing cultural shift that sees consumers using technology in lieu of paper.
Whether it’s reading an e-book on your iPad, checking out the latest edition of your favorite magazine on the Internet, or sending a message via social media outlets or e-mail instead of an old fashioned letter, the tech sector has single handedly caused a once lucrative sector to see its numbers drastically decline.
“The advance in electronic communication is not just one of the factors influencing demand for printing-paper grades — it is the factor,” says Verle Sutton, co-author of a report by MediaIdeas (a publishing industry consultant) analyzing the impact of digital media on paper demand.
That report also forecasted that most grades of paper would decline by 50 per cent in the next ten years. This is not positive news for an industry that has already seen a nearly 60 per cent decrease in it’s biggest product – newsprint – and losses of up to $1 billion a year in the last decade.
But not all hope is lost.
For some paper makers, the key to thriving in a market marred by unprecedented downturns has been creativity.
Mills that are switching to different grades of paper, creating smart papers that change colour when food goes bad, and concentrating on the development of new specialty products are those who are reinvigorating an industry thought to be on its way out, according to a new article published by Canadian Business.
“The biggest effort is in getting more value from each tree and expanding the uses for pulp beyond paper — opportunities particularly promising for integrated pulp and paper producers,” the article says.