The Wilderness Society responds to Australian Paper's claims

Australian Paper claim:

More than half the fibre we use each year is sourced from plantation wood, recycled pulp and wastepaper from kerbside collections.

The Wilderness Society response:

Australian Paper is addicted to cheap pulp sourced from native forests, including endangered species habitat and water catchments.

This is your taxpayer dollars being used to log native forests and the reason why Australian Paper still gets approximately half of their pulp in such a destructive, unsustainable manner.

The fact that they are able to source the rest of their paper from plantation wood, recycled pulp and wastepaper clearly demonstrates that these sources are viable and economically feasible.

Other major industry players such as Gunns Limited and Kimberly Clark have completely transitioned to plantation wood, recycled pulp and wastepaper. Australian Paper can too.

Sourcing fibre from our native forests is unecessary, socially irresponsible and comes at the expense of our environment and our future.

Australian Paper claim:

The remainder is regrowth wood purchased from the Victorian Government through VicForests as a by-product from the production of high quality sawn timber which is sustainably harvested in accordance with the Australian Forestry Standard, the only forest management standard that has been specifically developed for Australian conditions.

The Wilderness Society response:

The pulp used by Australian Paper is not a “by-product” of high-quality sawn timber logs, and is certainly not sustainably harvested.

If the pulp was truly a “by-product”, then the supply to Australian timber would vary enormously, depending on how many high-quality sawn logs were being harvested to meet market demand.

As for the pulp being “sustainably harvested”, the Australian Forestry Standard that Australian Paper claims to complies with is a toothless tiger, designed by government and industry to further the interests of the logging industry. It is not supported by environment organisations in Australia because it gives a rubber stamp to “business as usual” logging with scant consideration of environmental impacts.

These issues were all examined in the Supreme Court of Victoria, where Vicforests, the supplier of Australian Paper’s pulp, was taken to court by environment groups. In the judgment, the logging at Brown Mountain in East Gippsland was found to be illegal despite obtaining the approval of the Australian Forestry Standard.

Australian Paper claim:

After harvesting, all areas are replanted with the same species that naturally occurred on each site. No old growth wood is purchased by Australian Paper or used in the manufacture of our papers.

The Wilderness Society response:

Simply replacing natural forests with single aged stands of trees does next to nothing to repair the damage inflicted by clearfell logging.

Australian Paper’s claim that they do not use old-growth in their manufacturing is unable to be supported. Firstly, old trees are logged, burned and destroyed in the forest to get to the younger trees that Australian Paper uses for paper production. The Age recently printed a photograph of a giant tree killed by VicForests in this manner.

Furthermore, Australian Paper has never provided guaranteed evidence that ‘sawmill residue’ it receives from other mills to make its paper does not come from old growth forests.

Australian Paper claim:

All of our office papers are certified to either the Australian Forestry Standard (endorsed by the PEFC) or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards.

The Wilderness Society response:

State owned timber-company VicForests supplies Australian Paper with its native forest wood. In 2009, VicForests failed  to obtain FSC certification.

The FSC label on Reflex products was controversially obtained in 2007 without any consultation with environment groups. This is a fundamental breach of FSC principles and criteria and Australian Paper was subsequently re-audited.

Australian Paper’s FSC certification expired on the 26th July 2011 but was extended for one month until the audit was completed – primarily to check on the environmental credentials of native forest woodchips supplied to Australian Paper by VicForests.

At the eleventh hour, Australian Paper withdrew its request to have timber supplied by VicForests certified by the FSC, recognising it was unlikely to make the grade environmentally.

Australian Paper has now lost the ability to print the much-prized FSC certification logo on its flagship brand, Reflex paper.

As for the Australian Forestry Standard, this standard is dominated by industry interests and fails to adequately address the legality and sustainability of timber sources.

Australian Paper claim:

Australian Paper is proud of our performance as a leading Australian manufacturer, delivering quality products from sustainably-managed, renewable resources.

The Wilderness Society response:

Individual trees are renewable, but native forest ecosystems are not. On current logging rotations the full suite of ecological values within native forests never recover.

The state government’s State of the Forest Report shows that we do not even have the data to measure performance against our own sustainability indicators in native forests. Australian Paper, as a recipient of this wood, therefore cannot claim that the forests are being managed sustainably.