The use by book manufacturers of certified paper, either by the Forest Stewardship Council or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, was 47% in 2012, up from about 10% in 2007 but the use of recycled fiber has declined, according to a new study just released by the Book Industry Environmental Council.

The new report, “2012 Book Industry Environmental Trends,” also found that that the amount of book papers certified by the FSC or SFI used by paper manufacturers was at 73% in 2012, up from 48% in 2009, suggesting the use of certified paper will continue at relatively high levels. The survey results were drawn from responses from 13 paper manufacturers, all of whom have FSC chain-of-custody certification.

The positive growth in the use of certified paper was mitigated a bit by a fall back on the use of recycled paper which was at about 22% in 2012, down from almost 25% in 2009 and 2010. The report cited a number of reasons for the decline, including the closing of mills that manufacture recycled paper, increased demand for recycled paper from China, and the greater use of single stream recycling programs by communities that, by allowing residents to combine all of their recycling in one group, lowers the quality of the recovered paper, often making it unusable to manufacture book papers. All those factors have limited the supply of recycled fiber to both paper manufacturers and publishers. The report notes that finding ways to reverse the decline in use of recycled paper should be a top priority for the book industry.

On balance, though, the report said that the industry has made significant strides in improving its impact on the environment, particularly when it comes to the use of virgin fiber. Due to the combination of a 48% reduction in total paper consumption between 2006 and 2012 and the jump in the use of certified paper, book paper manufacturers cut their use of virgin fiber by 57%in the six-year period and the industry’s carbon footprint was reduced by 38%.

To see what publishers have been doing to lessen their impact on the environment, see the feature, “Sustaining Sustainability” in this week’s edition of PW