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Full Disclosure 2016

Paper & Pulp

Sector overview

The pulp and paper industry has a significant impact on air, water and land. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), “the pulp and paper industry is the fourth largest industrial user of energy…and a significant emitter of greenhouse gas”.1 The production process can also result in the discharge of large volumes of pollutants into water bodies, which may result in damage not only to ecosystems but also to the health of communities.2 Deforestation also affects biodiversity and can threaten the habitats of wildlife species.3

Companies in the pulp and paper sector are responsible for the establishment and management of large tree plantations, which provide an ongoing supply of timber. Companies such as Sappi argue that these plantations act as carbon sinks and therefore have positive environmental impacts. However, this “afforestation”, as it is called by the companies promoting the process, has been said to be “even more environmentally destructive than other large-scale monoculture crops”.4 In South Africa, “afforestation” has led to widespread degradation of grasslands which are an essential component of our biodiversity. On the Environmental Justice Atlas website, the harm caused by Mondi and Sappi plantations is described as follows:

Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity.5

Mondi and Sappi are the only companies operating pulp mills in South Africa.6 A pulp mill is a manufacturing facility which converts plant fibre into a thick fibre board which can then be further processed at a paper mill.7

Primary Legislation

National Environmental Management Act
National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act
National Environmental Management: Waste Act
National Forests Act
National Water Act
Environment Conservation Act

Pursuant to these pieces of legislation, companies are required to have licences in order to conduct various regulated activities. Minimum emission standards were published in Government Notice No. 248 in 20108 and apply to numerous emissions of the paper and pulp industry, including PM, H₂S, NO₂ and SO₂. Licences granted to companies under the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act must at least incorporate these standards and deadlines were introduced for meeting those standards.