Lighter, brighter and greener: Lightweight, earth-friendly papers are what’s in stock

Given they way the paper mills have been desperately trying to balance their paper supply with the low demand, you might think this isn’t much of a climate for innovation in the market. And some say you would be correct.

There have not been many new offerings in the paper industry in the past year, says Keith Dunlap, paper marketing and environmental for printer Quad/Graphics. “In fact, just the opposite is happening.”

The paper industry is shrinking and contracting to balance supply with demand, Dunlap says, “and mills have actually pulled various grades and heavier basis weights from the market in lieu of more profitable grades.”

There’s no question that manufacturers have put the brakes on paper output as the economy continues to suppress demand. North American paper production capacity has been reduced significantly since 2007, according to forest industry research group RISI.

Newsprint is down 33%; uncoated mechanical fell 19%; coated mechanical slid 24%; coated freesheet decreased 16%; and uncoated freesheet has fallen 18%.

Lightening up

It’s not just paper capacity that has been reduced — many papers are lighter in weight. Dunlap says the trend is toward lighter basis weights in the coated and uncoated mechanical (groundwood) papers.

In fact, the basis weight range that is considered lightweight coated has been redefined as 24 lb. to 36 lb. papers. Lightweight coated now accounts for more than 80% of the coated groundwood market.

A number of factors have contributed to the shift to lighter weight coated groundwood paper grades, namely lower postal costs, and mill profitability on lightweight coated grades.

Another reason: Lightweight coated is greener. Lighter basis weights equal more print per pound of paper, which reduces the number of trees that are harvested to produce the paper. This bonus has caused some to take a closer look at using lower basis weights for their printing requirements, Dunlap explains.

While it’s true that paper grades and basis weights are declining in general, this is typical in a tight market, says Dan Walsh, vice president of catalog/publication papers at distributor Bradner Smith & Co.

“The manufacturers cherry pick the grades that are most profitable to produce and exit other grades and basis weights,” he says. “Many of these discontinued items re-emerge when the market weakens and the mills become hungry again to keep their machines full.”

That’s not to say there haven’t been any new papers to hit the market. These are just a few of the new or notable paper offerings to surface in the past year.

New Page Corp. reintroduced Capri, a coated groundwood grade that had been gone for about two years. Capri is good for catalogers, magazine publishers and retailers because it provides a 76 brightness for great appearance, a choice of gloss or silk finishes and a wide range of basis weights.

What’s more, New Page has upgraded its Escanaba and Dependoweb brands. The Escanaba coated groundwood paper product now offers a higher brightness and blue-white shade to match its print performance, the manufacturer says.

(What’s the benefit of blue-white? Paper used to be more creamy-white, but the blue-white shade tendency has been preferred for the past 15 years, Walsh says.)

As for Dependoweb, the stock has been enhanced to maintain its position as a reliable and competitive #4 coated groundwood paper. Like Escanaba, New Page says Dependoweb now has a brighter, cleaner white shade, and it reproduces images accurately for every type of end-use application.

Catalyst Paper has introduced a new family of paper grades under the Sage brand. “These grades closely mirror the specifications of Catalyst’s virgin fiber grades, with the Sage brand being even more environmentally friendly,” Walsh says.

With the Sage product, Catalyst is able to offer some grades that are certified carbon-neutral, Walsh says. (See “Going carbon neutral” on page 13.)

These are the new Sage brands at Catalyst:

  • Pacificote Sage is a #4 coated paper with an 80 brightness. It has a high-bright, high-gloss finish with superior printability and runnability, the company says, making it ideal for heatset offset printing.

  • Electrastar Sage is the brand name for Catalyst’s super high-brightness (80), machine-finished uncoated grade. The manufacturer boasts that this paper stock has excellent opacity, super optical properties and is bulky, yet lightweight.

  • Electrastar Max Sage is Catalyst’s highest brightness (84) uncoated paper product; it shares the same characteristics of Electrastar Sage in terms of brightness, smoothness and basis weights.

  • Electraprime Sage is the brand name for Catalyst’s specialty SCA alternative product, which has a 75 brightness. Its exceptional print properties and runnability make it a great option for SC paper printers in western and central North America, the manufacturer says.

  • Electracote Sage is the company’s lightweight coated paper product. The lightweight coated paper has a 70 brightness and industry-leading bulk, Catalyst says, with the same characteristics as Pacificote Sage.

  • Electrabrite Book Sage is the brand name for the company’s uncoated high-bright (71) book paper product. Its caliper controlled, blue-white and creamy shade options, excellent printability and runnability make it the choice for book applications requiring uncoated paper.

  • Electracote Brite Sage is the company’s brightest (76), whitest, lightweight coated paper product. It shares the same characteristics as Pacificote Sage and Electracote Sage.

  • Electrabrite Sage is Catalyst’s specialty high-bright paper. Its brightness (70), broad basis weights, excellent printability and runnability make it a good option for books, special advertising sections and inserts.


Some paper manufacturers can now produce some grades that are certified carbon-neutral, says Dan Walsh, vice president of catalog/publication papers at distributor Bradner Smith & Co. For instance, with its Sage brand, Catalyst Paper is producing some certified carbon-neutral grades.

How? Catalyst is using an environmentally friendly manufacturing process, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon credits purchased on the open market, Walsh explains. “More than 85% of the mill’s energy already comes from either biomass or hydroelectric energy, so only a small percentage of carbon credits is needed to certify the grade as carbon neutral.”

A company can buy and use carbon credits from another business in the same or different industry via emissions trading, Walsh says. If a company’s emissions require fewer carbon credits than the company is entitled to, or an industry excels at its environmental initiatives, the government allows it to sell its unused credits to another company.

“So on a limited basis, Catalyst is using its environmental processes combined with carbon credits to produce a grade that can be declared carbon-neutral,” Walsh says. — JT

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