Pulp Pollution

Pulp and paper mills pollute our water, air, and soil. The pulp and paper industry is one of the largest and most polluting industries in the world; it is the third most polluting industry in North America.


There are about 500 kraft mills (including about 45 in Canada and 100 in the US), and many thousands of other types of pulp and paper mills, in the world. Primary concerns include the use of chlorine-based bleaches and resultant toxic emissions to air, water, and soil. With global annual growth forecast at 2.5%, the industry, and its negative impacts, could double every 28 years.

People need paper products and we need sustainable, environmentally safe production.

Examples of the Impact of Pulp and Paper Mills on the Environment

The pulp and paper industry is the largest single commercial user of water in Canada. In 1989, the total mill effluent discharged from Canadian bleached pulp mills averaged 137 cubic metres per tonne or 104,000 m3/day (ranging from 25,300 to 311,100 m3/day) which is roughly equal to the flow of the St. Lawrence River at Cornwall, Ontario or to that of the Columbia River in British Columbia. Total mill effluent volumes depend on the grade and amount of pulp being produced.

(* Canadian Environmental Protection Act Priority Substances List Assessment, Report No. 2, Effluents from Pulp Mills Using Bleaching, 1991)

PulpAndPaperMillThe figure below, from British Columbia, further illustrates the authorized contaminant loading from point sources, including emissions to air, liquid effluents, and solid waste discharges. (Data from the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Park’s waste management fees database, November, 2000.) The 20~23 pulp and paper mills in the province clearly make a significant contribution to the overall pollution loads.

The impact of all this pollution on the health of the community, the workers and the environment is a subject for much debate and some worry. Studies find it hard to resolve the issues, because there are so many variables, people move, and the environment has a myriad of influences and stresses. Nonetheless there are is a slowly accumulating body of evidence on mill impact on the environment and human beings.


View the Persistent Organic Pollutants, from the UN Environment Programme