Helping Paper Mills Get on the Right Track

Recycle Here at NWF, we’re all pretty into recycling.You should see the recycling center at our headquarters– it’s a floor to ceiling distribution center, where you can recycle everything from egg cartons to batteries.  

Last week I learned a rather alarming fact.  Many of America’s paper and pulp mills are finding ways to get around adopting environmentally conscious practices– and due to a loophole in the in US tax code, they’re even getting paid to do it!

Here’s what’s going on.  We give companies that use alternative fuels a tax credit to encourage them to do the right thing. Many paper companies burn a substance called black liquor. It’s a waste product that comes from trees, so in a way it’s a fuel that paper companies recycle. Or if you prefer–think about it as paper companies using every part of the tree to ensure not a single part of it goes to waste. Either way, it’s just fine that the government is rewarding these companies with a tax credit, rewarding them for trying. They’re not doing as well as recycled paper companies, who tend not to cut down trees at all. But they’re trying.

Speak up for America's Trees Except… Some of these companies have found a way to pollute and still get the credit. They’ve been adding diesel fuel to their black liquor and calling it alternative. Learning that made me so irritated. We’re all trying so hard to make a difference… Why can’t paper and pulp companies try too? 

The Senate Finance Committee is also a little irked. That’s why they’re trying to close up the tax loophole and push paper companies towards actually committing to real clean energy solutions (like producing recycled paper). 

So if I’ve managed to get you feeling a little irked about this too, please send a comment into the Senate Finance Committee before this Friday, July 10.

They’re accepting public comments as they decide what to do, and you can bet they’ll be hearing from a lot of industry lobbyists. Make sure they hear from you too. I can forgive and move on, but let’s make it easier for paper and pulp mills to do the right thing. 

It’s going to take efforts from all of us to build our clean energy future.

Published: July 8, 2009