Is Japan shunning old growth?

After Mitsubishi announced it was considering not buying chips from old growth forests, Nippon (the company that buys East Gippsland’s woodchips) announced it was also reviewing its policy on taking old growth woodchips.

Tasmania’s logging industry group, FIAT, claims that Mitsubishi had been “influenced by the economic vandalism and treachery of extremist environmental groups”.

Old growth = low quality chips
It would be nice to think these large companies were finally expressing some altruism towards the environment, but it seems like an opportunistic announcement to make it appear they are doing the right thing. The fact is that the global glut of plantation wood (many of them euc. plantations) is coming on stream. Not only is it cheaper and often closer to Japan, but the whiter young wood is so much better to process into paper than gnarly old dark tree trunks. So while they are shifting over to higher quality plantation wood, it benefits them to claim green credentials for not logging old growth forests they don’t want anyway,

The two pulp and paper companies buy about two million of Tasmania’s five million tonnes of export woodchips annually, and Nippon buys about one million tonnes from SE NSW and East Gippsland each year.

But Mitsibushi now back-steps
However, after talking turkey during a trade mission to Japan, Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry, Senator Richard Colbeck, seems to have convinced Mitsubishi Paper to continue buying woodchips from Gunns, despite their earlier statement against using old growth. Apparently Mitsubishi is instead considering the loggers’ self-certification scheme, Australian Forestry Standard, as a good enough green tick to satisfy their environmental credibility.

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