This article by Reps. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) originally appeared on The Hill website on October 22, 2014.
President Obama has declared this week National Forest Products Week, which is a great tribute to the more than 900,000 Americans who work in the U.S. forest products industry. As members representing nearly 87,000 of these hard-working men and women, we understand more than most the important role that forest products play in our daily lives for communication, packaging, shelter, hygiene, and everything in between.
The recent switch to paper-based food packaging in the House cafeterias brought these products to the forefront, but we don’t often realize the staggering array of forest products we use every day, including:
- Paper: copy paper, newspaper, books, magazines, and all kinds of specialty products like cards and invitations, paper coffee cups (need we say more?), paper plates, compostable to-go containers
- Packaging: cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, toy packaging, medicine packaging, gift boxes
- Wood products: walls, roofs, floors, fences, cabinets
- Tissue: bathroom tissues, facial tissues, paper towels, napkins, gift bag inserts
- Baby and personal care: disposable diapers and “adult” diapers
It’s the smart and capable American men and women working in manufacturing facilities across the country making this all happen. From front-line machine operators to pipefitters to engineers, the commitment to innovative products is a game-changer in this highly-competitive global industry.
The processes used to turn harvested fiber into products has become more innovative too, from an increased amount of recycled fiber content in paper-based packaging to cross-laminated timber that can match the strength of materials such as steel and concrete.
The success of these efforts is reflected in the industry’s continued economic vitality. The forest products industry accounts for nearly four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufacturing approximately $210 billion in products annually. It meets a payroll of approximately $50 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing employers in 47 states.
To show our support for forest products’ positive attributes, we included new language in the 2014 Farm Bill requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to include forest products – some of which are 100 percent biobased – in its BioPreferred® Program. This allows brand owners to use a “USDA Certified Biobased Product” label and to receive a federal government procurement preference. This is an important step toward forest products receiving the recognition they deserve in the marketplace.
Paper’s success story is the best kept secret of the 21st Century, and it’s high time that changes. Thanks to industry-led sustainable forestry practices, we have more trees in the U.S. today than during the first Earth Day celebration over 40 years ago. Paper recovery rates soar above all other commodities, exceeding 63 percent for the past five years. The industry produced 30 percent of combined heat and power electricity produced in the U.S. of all manufacturing sectors. The industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 14.5 percent since 2005. And the list goes on.
The next time you use a paper product, think about its positive environmental track record, the 900,000 American jobs you are supporting, and share the good word with those around you.
Now, go celebrate National Forest Products Week by buying something. Chances are, it’s made with paper.