Demand for wood-pulp-based packaging seems set to soar and it’s not clear how the sector will deal with this pressure. The pulp and paper sector has long been one of the principle causes of deforestation. Now, increasing demand for paper-based packaging and for wood fibre for non-paper products are putting pressure on the industry’s supply chains.

Johannes Zahnen, senior advisor on forest policy at WWF Germany points out that increasing global paper consumption will put more pressure on forests in any case. But, he argues, additional effects, such as “trends to replace oil based plastic with wood based plastic, will only increase the pressure on forests”.

The growing backlash against plastic has put wood-pulp-based packaging in the spotlight, with brands and their suppliers actively turning to paper and paperboard. Paper and board accounts for around a third of the world’s growing packaging market, a global sector estimated to top $1tn by 2021.

In total, WWF expects annual paper demand to rise to around 490m tonnes over the next few years – the virgin pulp component in this accounting for over 40% of industrial harvested forests – and speculates that it might rise to as much as 800m tonnes by 2050. And much of this consumption is being fuelled by demands from China, Asia and Latin America.

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