Not so long ago, you couldn’t buy anything made of recycled paper. Now companies turn waste into products people use every day.

I got the story behind Canada’s Cascades from Mario Plourde, president and chief executive officer.

How was Cascades created?

In the 1950s, few people worried about the impact of mass consumption on the environment. As the dumps filled up, Antonio Lemaire wondered how to repurpose materials. In 1957, his family founded Drummond Pulp & Fibre, to recover waste and recycle pulp. Recognizing that old paper could be used to create new, Antonio and his sons bought an abandoned paper mill in Kingsey Falls, Quebec and founded Cascades in 1964.

What makes recycled paper products eco-friendly?

Paper and cardboard come from processing trees, using chemicals, energy and water. Recycling one product to make another reduces the pressure on natural resources. Our “forest” is urban — it’s in the recycling bin. Cascades recycles and works to improve methods and processes. We now use 2.7 times less energy and 6.5 times less water to manufacture our products than the average in the Canadian paper industry.

What’s your biggest challenge?

People use less paper and now many companies manufacture paper and cardboard from 100 per cent recycled fibres, so there’s greater demand for fewer raw materials. We prefer local suppliers to reduce transportation costs and related greenhouse gas emissions. But to ensure a stable supply of raw materials, we’ve expanded across North America.

What products do you make from recycled paper?

Toilet paper, paper towels, napkins and different types of packaging, from food containers and cardboard boxes to industrial packaging.

What else makes Cascades a “green” company?

Cascades has been named one of Canada’s 50 best corporate citizens for the last 10 years and Quebec’s most responsible company. In 2013, my predecessor, Alain Lemaire, was named Greenest CEO in Canada and earned Quebec’s Green CEO Award. Cascades was the first company in its sector to put in a solar park to reduce natural gas consumption.

How can we make it easier for companies that use post-consumer paper?

A lot of packaging includes paper and plastic. Separate those when you put them in the recycling bin.