How environmentally friendly is your paper?

By Gary Hunter

5 minute Read


  • Insight

It’s a common misconception that your bills, print outs and notebooks are worse for the environment than they actually are. The print industry is incredibly forward thinking when it comes to sustaining the environment as it requires a continuing lifespan of paper to sustain itself. There have been great innovations in the industry to make the production system more circular. All the printers Dragonfly use have environmentally friendly options and sustainable initiatives. These are the five main types of environmentally friendly paper that you’ll be using:

1. Recycled paper – The product of all our recycling efforts! This paper is made either partially or entirely from recycled paper fibres. Most often it’s a percentage, as 100% recycled paper takes a lot of energy to produce and is no longer recyclable, as the fibres are not strong enough to be reused. Today, most recycled paper is made up of 54% used fibres and 47% new fibres. (Source: TwoSides)

2. Recyclable paper – Without new fibres, the paper cycle collapses. Recyclable paper is any paper that can (and should!) be recycled. The few kinds of paper that can’t be recycled are foiled paper and greasy paper (looking at you, pizza boxes!) Greaseproof or coated paper can’t be recycled either. These are papers coated with silicone or laminated with plastic, often used for baking or in take away cups for hot drinks.

3. Carbon balancing paper – The result of programmes where businesses offset their carbon output by investing in campaigns and initiatives which promote the protection and growth of the environment. One of the most popular is the ‘Carbon Balanced’ programme offered by the World Land Trust. This enables businesses to invest in World Land Trust initiatives which protect and restore carbon-rich wildlife habitats in the tropics, therefore offsetting their carbon footprint. Carbon balancing initiatives protect and promote the growth of forests, however the products created by carbon balanced programmes are not necessarily made from recycled or accredited paper, they’re just one piece of the puzzle!

Whether your paper is recycled or not, you should ensure your paper is made with wood from sustainably managed forests. This is accredited paper. The most common types of accredited paper in the UK are from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

4. FSC – You may already recognise this logo which is commonly used in print. This is a type of accreditation which supports the growth of forests. The system allows businesses and consumers to purchase forest products, like paper, that have been made with materials from well-managed forests and/or recycled sources. When you see the FSC ‘free tick’ logo (below) you know you’re purchasing a product that helps to grow forests. The FSC monitor wood production and ensure that trees are harvested and replanted in a responsible manner that promotes growth. This has ensured that forests are growing, rather than being depleted.

FSC environmentally friendly paper

5. PEFC – This programme provides accreditation for sustainably sourced forest products. Much like the FSC, forests need to be sustainably managed to become accredited. Sustainably managed forests are healthier, protected and great for the environment. Products that are from PEFC approved forests are printed with the PEFC label. Buying PEFC accredited paper with this label ensures that the area of accredited forests continues to grow. PEFC also partner with a range of stakeholders to amplify their message by creating campaigns such as the ‘Forest for Fashion’ initiative and developing national forest certification systems in the Balkans. 

It’s programmes like the FSC and PEFC that have led European forests to grow by over 1,500 football pitches every day. More than 60% of forests in the EU and the UK are certified, and most of them are under the FSC, PEFC or both. Only 12% of the world’s forest areas are certified, so Europe is really leading the way when it comes to sustainable paper production.

Sources for further reading:

On recycled paper (fibres) -

On why to use recycled papers -

On the tree to page cycle -

European reports on paper environmental impact -

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About the author

Gary is our production expert who loves nothing more than sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience with the Dragonfly team and uses his technical insight to guide our clients. With over 30 years’ experience in the industry Gary still has a passion for finding solutions and answers for all of our clients.