Forest industry refutes plastics industry commentary

October 4, 2019
Ms. Carol Hochu
President and CEO
Canadian Plastics Industry Association

Dear Carol,
Thank you for taking the time to connect with me by phone on Monday to discuss the Canadian Plastics Industry Association’s (CPIA) media release of September 27th entitled Nova Scotia Plastic Bag Ban Comes at a Huge Environmental Cost: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Set to Skyrocket by 7 Million Pounds.

Disappointed in CPIA’s approach

As I said to you on Monday, we were very disappointed in not only the tone of the release, but the fact that it contained so much misinformation. It completely misrepresented the work being done by Nova Scotia’s and Canada’s forest products sectors and our commitment to environmental stewardship.

It was also very unfair to the men and women in Nova Scotia and across Canada who support their families by working in our forests and at our mills.

Before I more formally correct the record, let me be clear that FPAC respects the pressure that all sectors are under as we deal with global trade pressures, market shifts, and the various demands and asks placed upon us by customers, rights holders, governments, and stakeholders.

We all have our challenging issues to deal with. While FPAC and Canada’s forest products sector does not support demonizing other sectors to get ahead, we will defend ourselves when we face comments like those we read in CPIA’s release last week.

Opportunity to work together

FPAC has been actively working with the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada and other partners on the federal Plastics Charter. We believe there is significant opportunity for forest products companies (by leveraging the power of innovation and wood residuals – chips, bark, sawdust, etc.) to work with the chemistry and plastics sectors to advance the bio-materials agenda. We also believe there is more we can do together to improve recycling infrastructure and recycling rates.

With a host of partners, we recently launched – a program to promote Canada’s Bioeconomy Strategy and to bring together a national network of resources to support bio-based initiatives across the country.

Correcting the record  – What we make and how we work

It is important to understand that paper bags come from kraft pulp which does not require bleaching. In Canada, we currently only have one mill that makes paper bags. It is located over 4,000 kilometres from Halifax, in Western Canada, and it makes industrial sized, nonbleached
paper bags. CPIA’s comments on the bleaching process itself were not only misdirected but also out of date. The bleaching process at Canadian mills was drastically changed in the 1980s.

Moving away from elemental chlorine was an important move for our sector as it has resulted in the virtual elimination of dioxins and furans. Furthermore, the Pulp and Paper Mill Effluent Chlorinated Dioxins and Furans Regulations have been in effect since 1992.

Greenhouse gas emissions

CPIA’s release references that “paper bags emit 4 times more carbon dioxide in their production than plastic bags and 7 times more carbon in their transport than plastic”. Once again, these statistics have no current relevance to the Nova Scotian, nor the Canadian pulp and paper sectors. While these data points were based on a Government of Quebec study, they were in fact taken from mills in North Carolina using information from 2006-2007. Canada’s pulp and paper sector is actually 3 to 4 times less carbon-intensive than our US

While we appreciate that a significant component of Nova Scotia’s energy base is sourced from coal, in the rest of Canada our mills have moved away from coal, and they use very little oil. The US industry is still very much coal and oil dependent.

CPIA’s use of US-based pulp and paper data in your assessment really misrepresents the Canadian pulp and paper sector’s GHG story – which is one we are quite proud of. We have reduced emissions at our mills by nearly 70% since the 1990s – and our 30 x 30 Climate Change Challenge released in May 2016 commits us to moving even further along the line of continuous improvement (see page 14 here).


Canada has the one of the highest recycling rates (>70%) for pulp and paper in the world. Brown paper bags can be recycled and even composted in a number of municipalities across the country. CPIA’s release said that “thousands of pounds of non-recyclable reusable bags would be pouring into landfills” and that there would be “a seven-fold increase in municipal bag waste”. This is simply not true. That does not need to happen. Those bags can and should be recycled and/or composted.

Misleading presentation of carbon impacts

The other comment we took exception to was CPIA’s reference that “the decision comes with a huge environmental price tag – an additional 6,896,000 additional pounds of carbon dioxide loaded into the environment each year”. While we question the use of that number to start with, we also believe putting it in terms of “pounds” was used to deliberately sensationalize this point.

If CPIA chooses to use “6,896,000 lbs of CO2”, that is in fact equivalent to 3,145 tons of CO2 which is actually quite small considering Nova Scotia’s overall GHG emissions of 16,500,000 tons of CO2e – (that’s less than 0.02% of Nova Scotia’s overall emissions).


We felt it was important to correct the record based on the release that CPIA pushed out for media, government, and public consumption last week.

Going forward, we would appreciate that CPIA stick to the facts when speaking publicly about our sector.

Derek Nighbor
President and CEO