New Japanese paper scandal

Posted: 6 January 2009 in Australia, Gunns, Japan, Nippon, Oji Paper

Press release from the Wilderness Society:

MEDIA RELEASE 12 December 2008

NEW JAPANESE PAPER SCANDAL: First it was misleading about recycled content, now old growth forest destruction claims are under scrutiny

New report shows Nippon Paper Group and Oji Paper are the likely purchasers of Tasmania’s oldgrowth forests

A new report released this week by The Wilderness Society and the group, Still Wild Still Threatened, shows that, despite claims to the contrary, Japanese customers are the likely purchasers of wood chips from Tasmania’s oldgrowth forests. This revelation comes just months after a major scandal in Japan where it was revealed that Nippon and Oji were misleading consumers about the amount of recycled paper content in their products. That scandal led to major embarrassment for the companies and Nippon Paper’s president, Masatomo Nakamura resigning after the revelations of lying by his company. In January Shoichiro Suzuki, chairman of the Japan Paper Association and Oji Paper admitted they had been falsifying the amount of recycled content in their paper products.

Now a new crisis looms as it appears extremely likely that Nippon and Oji are the recipients of at least 268,000 green tonnes per annum of woodchips from Tasmanian oldgrowth and mature forests.

“Oldgrowth forests in Tasmania are being destroyed by logging and over 85% of the logs extracted from those forests are turned into woodchips for export,’ said Geoff Law, Wilderness Society Campaign Manager.

“Nippon and Oji were caught falsifying the amount of recycled content in their paper products. This report reveals that those same companies, who are the two major customers of Gunns Ltd, are the most likely recipients of woodchips sourced from Tasmania’s old growth forests,” said Mr Law.

“Whilst the Japanese paper companies were misleading people about using recycled paper in their products they were buying large amounts of old growth woodchips from Tasmania. We hope that this exposure and a backlash from Japanese consumers will force Nippon and Oji to cease buying woodchips from oldgrowth and high-conservation-value forests in Tasmania,” said Mr Law.

The Wilderness Society and Still Wild Still Threatened combined to pool their knowledge about logging in Tasmania’s oldgrowth forests. ‘Oldgrowth for Export’ presents a case study of oldgrowth logging in the Derwent forests and numerous tables, charts, maps and photographs. It draws together information from a range of sources, including Forestry Tasmania, the Regional Forest Agreement, the Forest Practices Authority and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, in order to paint a picture of where the logs from Tasmania’s oldgrowth forests go. The report refutes claims circulating in international pulp-industry circles that Tasmanian woodchips do not contain oldgrowth.

“Nippon and Oji are have misled people about the use of recycled content in an attempt to try and lure green-minded customers. We know that green consumers in Japan will not want to source paper products that are made from the destruction of irreplaceable forests in Tasmania,” said Mr Law.

“We are calling on the Japanese pulp-and-paper companies to stop buying woodchips that are sourced from oldgrowth and high-conservation-value forests in Tasmania” said Ula Majewski, spokesperson for Still Wild Still Threatened.

The main findings of the report ‘Oldgrowth for Export’ are:

* Approximately 78% of the original extent of tall-eucalypt forests have already been cleared or are available for logging;
* 61 000 hectares of tall-eucalypt RFA oldgrowth are currently unprotected from logging;
* The dominant product from logging of Tasmania’s public native forests is pulpwood (86%), with less than 5% becoming solid wood products;
* The vast majority of pulpwood from Tasmanian native forests – and an even higher proportion of pulpwood sourced from publicly-owned RFA oldgrowth forests – are exported by Gunns Ltd as woodchips;
* A significant proportion (at the absolute lowest, 20%) of woodchips from mature and oldgrowth forests are exported to Japan.

“This report presents irrefutable evidence to show significant tracts of tall-eucalypt oldgrowth and other high-conservation-value forests in Tasmania are being woodchipped and exported to Japan by Gunns Ltd,” said Ms Majewski.

“The industrial-scale logging and woodchipping of Tasmania’s oldgrowth and high-conservation-value forests will continue unless decision-makers in the political and corporate arenas take immediate action to protect these globally-significant forests” concluded Mr Law.

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