A win on woodchips

 “Rip rip woodchip – turn it into paper
Throw it in the bin, no news today
Nightmare, dreaming – can’t you hear the screaming?
Chainsaw, eyesore – more decay”

The above are lyrics from Australian singer/songwriter John Williamson’s “Rip rip woodchip“. The song was penned to protest Australia’s habit of cutting down our natives forests to feed Japanese paper mills with woodchips.

It’s ironic that we ship all these chips overseas and import paper products. Imports of paper products into Australia were worth almost AUD$2 billion back a few year ago.

The popular song was written back in 1989 and is still as relevant today as it was then. However, 21 years after the song was released and all the protests and activism that have occurred before and since are finally starting to have a broad effect.

One example – according to an article on Stock and Land, it seems that Japanese paper producers are increasingly becoming resistant to buying woodchips sourced from our native forests.

The Wilderness Society says the Japanese are demanding Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood right through the supply chain. Mitsubishi have said they aim to take only plantation timber by 2012.

2000 hectares of native forests in the Australian state of Tasmania are mowed down each year. That might not seem like much compared to the destruction of the Amazon, but Tasmania is a small island state and home to unique habitats.

The loss of jobs mentioned in the article is a great shame; but these companies should be waking up to themselves – the writing has been on the wall for a very long time. Instead of pursuing business as usual and investing so much into lobbying to maintain the status quo, they should be embracing sustainability and plowing resources into the required certifications to compete in what is becoming a more environmentally conscious market.

“Greener” paper or not, I’m still astounded that in this age of the Internet, we still need to consume so much of the stuff. In fact, our consumption has increased globally. While I couldn’t find very recent figures, in 2005 average paper and paperboard consumption in the USA was 297 kilograms (over 600lbs) per person for that year.

Aside from general consumer awareness relating to issues such as  toilet paper, I think marketers, corporations, governments and the legal profession are a major part of the problem – their continued desire for physical documents (advertising materials, tax records, contracts and such) is just so antiquated.

So much for the paperless office.

As for newspapers – hopefully their demise will continue. The justifications for continuing paper-based news are fast running out.


Toilet paper and the environment
The paper reduction diet
Tree free paper