Paper is frequently considered a greener alternative to plastic, yet the paper industry, in its production, consumes vast amounts of water.
Despite claims from companies in the pulp and paper sector that they are integrating new technologies to reduce water consumption, the pressing question remains: are they adapting rapidly enough in the face of our changing climate?
The UPM Paso de Los Toros facility, one of the world’s largest pulp mills, recently commenced operations in Uruguay, situated in the country’s centre. However, its inauguration coincided with Uruguay facing its most severe drought on record, prompting concerns about the facility’s water usage.
Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, even experienced a shortage of fresh drinking water this year due to unprecedentedly low levels of rainfall. For months, authorities had to draw water from a river estuary where seawater mixes with freshwater, resulting in slightly salty tap water.
This situation led to public protests, with demonstrators banging empty plastic bottles, expressing grievances that wood-pulping mills and their forestry suppliers were consuming excessive amounts of water.
“It’s true that there’s been a drought, but this crisis is caused by our economic model,” said Isabel Figari, one of the protestors. “Today, pulp mills have water, and we the people don’t.”