Our Vision: Chlorine-Free, Zero-Discharge Pulp Mills

We support a pulp industry with a clean, healthy environment and safe, sustainable jobs. We have done extensive research on how to make that happen.

Here’s what we’ve found:


  • Totally chlorine-free, zero-discharge pulp mills, which produce no liquid effluent and minimize the quantity and toxicity of air pollution and solid waste, are a desirable and achievable goal.
  • Genetic damage and toxicity to fish and essential micro-organisms still occur with treated effluent from mills that use chlorine dioxide as a bleaching agent. Eliminating all chlorine goes furthest to safeguard water quality, human and environmental health, and community safety.
  • Closed-loop operations will eliminate all toxicity to aquatic environments by eliminating all discharge into them. This is important because some toxicity continues to cause harm, even in mills using no chlorinated compounds. Additionally, water use will be significantly reduced, leaving more water for fish habitat and other uses.
  • Practices that eliminate water pollution also greatly improve air quality. In addition to ending chlorine-caused air pollution, TCF closed-loop mills prevent foul-smelling, toxic air pollution and increase work place safety. These changes will directly benefit workers and people in mill towns, who are exposed to bleaching chemicals, process gases, emissions from treatment ponds, and bacteria and fungi on wood chips and sludge.
  • Oxygen-based kraft pulps show no appreciable shortcomings in pulp quality compared to products bleached with chlorine dioxide.
  • Totally Chlorine Free mills have the lowest waste water toxicity and by not using dangerous chlorine compounds, the closed-loop systems are more feasible.

Extensive scientific evidence supports our conclusion that oxygen-based bleaching is safest for workers, communities, and the environment.

Oxygen-based, closed-loop pulp mills are the best route forward to a successful and ecologically responsible pulp industry.

Taking Steps:

In 1998 authors Jay Ritchlin and Paul Johnston, for Reach for Unbleached and Greenpeace International, collaborated, under the auspices of the Zero Toxics Alliance Pulp Caucus, to produce Zero Discharge: Technological Progress Towards Eliminating Kraft Pulp Mill Liquid Effluent, Minimising Remaining Waste Streams And Advancing Worker Safety. The report was intended to pinpoint the most advanced millproactices for pollution prevention and as a reality check on environmental organizations’ conviction that getting the chlorine out of the bleaching system was a critical step toward closed loop pulp and paper production. It looked at the most recent research of the 1990s and, unfortunately is still current in the mid-2000s.

We made this important tool to evaluate the technical, environmental, economic and community impacts of your local pulp mill. If you can find the information about what processes and equipment the mill you are investigating uses, you can use the step by step questions in the Pollution Prevention Report Card to focus on the most important urgent issues requiring attention. Explore the Pollution Prevention Report Card

You will find the Production of Bleached Kraft an invaluable introduction to the issues addressed in the Pollution Prevention Report Card; both documents are important in their scope to address the range of pollution and production issues in pulp and paper making.

Over the years our bimonthly newsletter MillWatch has produced numerous short accounts of pollution prevention and clean production efforts by mills around the world. Some of the most notable are:

Irving Pulp Goes for the Gold (2001)

“Since the discovery of highly toxic dioxin compounds in pulp mill effluent there has been a great deal of work on reducing the toxicity of liquid discharges from pulp mills. There have been efforts at both end-of-the-pipe control, and at eliminating precursors to known toxic compounds”.

Zero Discharge