Document Type : SPECIAL ISSUE


1 Natural Resources and Environmental Management Science, IPB University, Bogor, West Java, Indonesia

2 Research Center for Sustainable Production System and Life Cycle Assessment, BRIN, Tangerang, Indonesia

3 Department of Agroindustrial Technology, Faculty of Agricultural Engineering and Technology, IPB University, PO Box 220, Bogor, West Java, Indonesia


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Virgin wood fiber and recycled waste paper are the main raw materials for paper production. Virgin wood-fiber paper appears less favorable than recycled paper, as recycled paper generally consumes more natural resources. Some indicators raise questions about the product being recycled, including the amount of solid waste produced during production and carbon emissions, which can occasionally be higher than for paper made from virgin fiber, as it may require more energy to operate. This study presents a comparative life cycle assessment of paper production in Indonesia using wood fibers and recycled fiber materials. This life cycle assessment study aimed to compare two comparable products, namely duplex board with 93 percent recycled fiber and folding boxboard with 100 percent wood or virgin fiber raw materials.
METHODS: Both products were represented as one metric ton of the final product. The study utilized a cradle-to-grave system and combined primary data from a paper factory in Indonesia with secondary data from the Ecoinvent database, representing processes in background systems. Various impact assessment methods were employed to evaluate the environmental impact, including the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the Centre for Environmental Studies, International Reference Life Cycle Data System, and the United Nations Environment Program, Society for Environmental Toxicology, and Chemistry toxicity model. All inventory and impact assessments were performed using SimaPro software.
FINDINGS: The current study revealed that duplex board is environmentally preferable to folding boxboard across all the impact categories assessed. The results of the impact assessment of global warming potential fossil, acidification, particulates, fossil abiotic depletion, and human toxicity-cancer for duplex board were 1,848.26 kilogram carbon dioxide equivalent, 8.12 kilogram-sulfur-dioxide-equivalent, 2.12 kilogram particulate matter 2.5-equivalent, 14,668.06 megajoule, and 0.0000017 comparative toxic unit, while for folding boxboard 2,651.25 kilogram carbon- dioxide-equivalent, 13.95 kilogram sulfur-dioxide-equivalent, 3.27 kilogram particulate matter 2.5-equivalent, 22,395.81 mega-joule, and 0.0000021 comparative toxic unit, respectively. All impact magnitudes were measured in functional units per 1 ton of paper product.
CONCLUSION: The study has revealed the environmental impact of paper products produced in Indonesia. Paper products made from recycled fibers are a more environmentally favorable option when than those produced from virgin fibers. Through further contribution analysis, it was determined that the main contributor to all impact categories in both production systems was fossil-based energy input. Efforts to improve the environmental performance of the two products should focus on enhancing the energy efficiency of the system and incorporating non-fossil fuel energy sources into the production process. 

Graphical Abstract

Life cycle assessment of paper products based on recycled and virgin fiber


  • Paper products from recycled fiber have a lower life cycle impact than paper from virgin wood fiber;
  • Pulp-making from virgin fiber is more complex than deinking pulp, and the number of main raw materials for paper from virgin fiber is also higher, requiring higher energy consumption;
  • Coal combustion and electricity use are inventory processes mostly contributing to global warming, potential fossils, abiotic depletion fossils, particulates, and acidification;
  • Open burning of disposal highly contributes to human toxicity-cancer impact. 


Main Subjects


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