shredded paper The pulp and paper industry is the world’s fifth largest industrial consumer of energy and uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry, according to WorldWatch Institute. Paper products that are made from recycled content rather than virgin fiber creates 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution. Unfortunately, the total amount of paper fiber coming from recycled material has grown very slowly, from 20% in 1921 to only about 38% today. One of the things making it hard for the recycled paper industry to really take off is that there’s no universal standard in place for determining what is post-consumer waste and what’s not. Consumers and businesses, unaware of this, make choices with what they think is the best result in mind, but end up buying paper that needs to be shipped from another continent. Another problem is that most companies have an outdated process for manufacturing recycled paper, meaning that most of the effort made to protect the environment is wasted. Before recycled paper existed, paper companies built their factories as close to the raw material — trees — as possible. This means that many paper mills were built in rural areas, far away from the consumers that would use the finished product. Now, for the first time ever, most people live in urban areas, meaning that this is where most of the waste material used in recycled paper is collected. The only problem is that the mills are still operating far away from these urban centers, meaning it must be shipped very long distances to the legacy paper mills — wasting energy and creating pollution the whole way. Even when it gets there, it takes a long time to feed the recycled content into the machinery, most of which wasn’t built to accept recycled material in the first place.

Harvesting the urban forest

FutureMark is revolutionary paper company with a commonsense approach to all of these problems: build a new process for creating paper that eliminates inefficiencies and caters to a public that is more than ready for truly responsible paper. This company chose the location of its  factory very carefully. The modern building is located 13 miles from downtown Chicago, one of the top centers of magazine printing in the country. From this prime location, FutureMark is uniquely prepared to harvest the urban forest: dumpsters, shredders and recycling bins all over the Chicago area. From publishers to the public, it is able to locally source most of its material, and processes it in efficient equipment exactly suited for up to 100% recycled content. And it doesn’t stop there. After producing its high-quality paper, FutureMark takes the post-recycling remnants and donates them to an agricultural supply company that sells to farmers. FutureMark has also created a partnership with the city of Chicago and its schools and community groups that helps raise money for paper and textbooks collected for recycling. FutureMark recently reached a major milestone: 1.5 billion pounds of paper recycled. Many conventional paper companies are watching the company and its “urban forest” model very carefully. The best way to support a cleaner, more sustainable future for paper is to convince major publishers there’s a market for high-recycled-content paper. As consumers, we must vote with our dollars, our words and our actions to send the paper industry a clear message: No more games or semantics — we want recycled paper, and we want it done right!