Eco-business / Social Venture

July 9, 2003


Envelopes Made of Wood from Forest Maintenance Hit the Market

Keywords: Eco-business / Social Venture Ecosystems / Biodiversity Government Local government Manufacturing industry University / Research institute 

Since January 15, 2003, special envelopes made using wood gathered from the maintenance of Japan's under-managed forests have been on sale in Japan. They were developed as an outcome of a study group organized by the Japan Wood Promotion Council on ways to conserve Japanese forests. Participants in the study group came from various sectors, including the Forestry Agency, local municipalities, the wood industry, the paper industry, pulp companies, envelope makers and environmental groups. The envelope is made of wood from the thinning of forests (15 percent of content) and recycled paper (85 percent). Its price is about the same as regular envelopes.

Japan's annual timber consumption is about 100 million cubic meters, of which 39 percent is for construction and 48 percent for paper and paperboard. Japan's timber self-sufficiency has been decreasing steadily year-by-year, to the point that today more than 80 percent of its consumption is covered by imported timber. In particular, imports account for almost 90 percent of Japan's annual demand of around 40 million cubic meters for woodchips and pulp (timber equivalent), which are used as raw materials to manufacture paper.

While 9 million hectares of forests, equivalent to a quarter of Japan's total land area, disappeared worldwide every year during the 1990s, Japan's forest resources (with a large proportion of plantations) have been increasing by 90 million cubic meters annually in volume of standing timber. Despite this, the country's consumption of domestically grown timber continues to decline, leading to a lack of investment in domestic forest management, which in turn has meant the lack of attention to the management of plantation forests.

Citizens and businesses held study sessions to discuss how to build a system that would enable them to be involved in maintaining the public benefit functions of forests by purchasing paper that contains domestic timber, including wood gathered from the thinning of plantation forests as well as sawmill residue. The first study session was held in March 2002. Pulp manufacturers took responsibility for making pulp from the wood, and envelope manufacturers for processing the pulp into envelopes and printing. After only five study sessions, they launched the sale of these envelopes.

The Nagano prefectural government, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute are considering purchasing the thinned wood envelopes. The session members are now trying to find other possible uses of the wood, and expect to spread the use of this domestic timber source.

Posted: 2003/07/09 10:26:38 AM
Japanese version