Optimising Environmental Product Life Cycles: A Case Study of the European Pulp and Paper Sector
Environmental and Resource Economics, Vol. 9, No. 2 (1997)
Posted: 19 May 1998
Policy makers are seeking to reduce the environmental impact of the European pulp and paper sector by influencing technology choices throughout its life cycle. Because of its preoccupation with existing technologies, policy risks causing perverse environmental outcomes or adverse effects on some countries' industry and trade. The scientific basis for preferring one technology over another is unclear. We explore these concerns in the case of mandatory fibre recycling using an approach that combines materials accounting methods and operational research techniques. We find that minor changes in technological assumptions result in sharply different environmental optima for the sector. Recycling offers rapid improvement in environmental performance with geographical specialisation in production. An alternative of cleaner primary pulp production plus energy recovery offers potentially greater long term environmental improvement and greater geographical self-sufficiency. An important policy implication is that a level of recycling is needed in the short term that will reduce environmental impacts but not lock out progress on cleaner pulping technologies. Not all paper grades should contain secondary fibre. Our results reconfirm that regulatory policy instruments may unnecessarily limit the overall potential to reduce environmental impacts.
JEL Classification: Q28, Q38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation