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Carbon credits and AI ‘key for recovered paper sector’s future’

Paper recyclers have been challenged to work for a carbon credit system in which the recovered fibre market would be financially rewarded for helping to cut CO2 emissions as part of the global drive to Net Zero.

The call came during the Paper division session at the recent BIR World Recycling Convention in Abu Dhabi. Ranjit Baxi, md of J&H Sales International and the founding president of the Global Recycling Foundation, also argued the sector should harness the power of AI to improve quality, efficiency and costs, as well as verifying ‘green’ audit trails.

Baxi set out five key factors that determined successful global trade: logistics costs, currency volatility, economic outlook, demand, and quality control. With parts of the world developing local collections, he believed that exporting lower grades of any fibre would by 2030 be ‘a no-go area’ and more fibre would end up in energy recovery.

Green audit trails

Improving quality and efficiency in sorting plants will be key in the coming years, he asserted, with AI, robotics and optical sorters all helping to achieve this. Paper mills will demand green audit trails and AI in data systems ‘will play a very important part in our industry’ in generating them, as well as transforming logistics and payment systems.

Baxi acknowledged that voluntary carbon credits (VCCs) bought by carbon emitters to offset their CO2 emissions was not a current focus for the sector but ‘in the next five years, this is what you will all be talking about’. Earning credits by recycling paper and other materials could bring in up to US$ 2bn (EUR 1.89 billion) for stakeholders across the global recycling chain.

‘We are supplying 240 million tonnes of recovered fibre to generate about 430 million tonnes of new paper across the world,’ he said. ‘That 240 million tonnes can be, should be, and must be part of the VCC system.’

India’s promising market

Baxi thought the Indian market had big growth prospects. Capacity at Indian paper mills, of which there are around 750, is projected to grow from 14 million tonnes to over 20 million tonnes by 2030 and paper consumption is projected to be 25 million tonnes by 2030. ‘The good news for us is that 75% of Indian paper mills are totally dependent on recovered fibre,’ he said. Around 30% of domestic fibre in India is recovered and it imports around 12 million tonnes.

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