The paper industry includes companies that use wood as a raw material to manufacture pulp, paper, and paperboard. Even in the age of digitalization, paper continues to represent an important material, which is used daily for many purposes. In Japan, the majority of manufactured paper was used for printing and communication, newsprint, sanitary tissue as well as packaging and wrapping materials.
Paper industry in Japan
Japan remained the third-largest producer of paper worldwide, following China and the United States. Even though both its paper production and consumption volume declined continuously throughout the past decade, Japan remained one of the largest consumers of paper and paperboard. Especially the consumption of printing and writing papers is expected to further decline, likely due to the digitalization of such products. On the other hand, many Japanese companies started to turn to paper products to reduce plastic waste. In recent years, paper and paperboard products made up the majority of shipments of packaging materials in Japan. The demand for paper packaging is expected to continue to grow since paper is seen as more sustainable than plastic.
Japan mainly traded paper with neighboring Asian countries such as China. Nevertheless, the Japanese paper industry focused on domestic production and mostly imported raw materials such as pulpwood, which is necessary for paper production. Even though Japan is a vastly forested country, many areas are too mountainous and therefore not accessible to produce wood itself. Oji Holdings was the leading pulp and paper company in Japan and ranked as the second-largest paper company worldwide. The Tokyo-based company produces paper for printing, writing, and packaging as well as paper cups and containers.
Environmental impact and paper recycling
Paper production has a major environmental impact as it contributes to air, water, and land pollution. Trees are cut down to provide raw material, and paper mills produce emissions as a result of energy consumption and consume large amounts of water in the production process. Finally, wastepaper makes up a large amount of municipal waste in Japan.
In recent years, there have been changes in the behavior of both businesses and consumers as environmental issues such as pollution and climate change gained importance. To reduce waste and effectively use resources, the paper industry established a system of recycling wastepaper by using it as a raw material to produce new paper products. Since paper is made from wood, it is defined as a renewable resource and its recovery is crucial. Amounting to over 80 percent in recent years, paper had one of the highest recycling rates in Japan. Major Japanese paper companies such as Oji Holdings mostly used wastepaper to produce cardboard, newspapers, and magazines.
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