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Fibre sector resilient during Covid

The recovered fibre industry showed resilience during the Covid upheavals of 2020, sustained by exports, according to the latest review of the market from the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR).

‘2020 was an unprecedented year as the Covid crisis impacted markets, industries and lifestyles around the world,’ says the third annual edition of BIR paper division’s analysis. ‘Despite these many upheavals, recovered fibre succeeded in building upon its pivotal role in global paper and board production.’

Although paper and board production fell 3.4% worldwide in 2020, production of recovered paper declined by only 1.6% (just under 240 million tonnes). Of all the paper and board produced in 2020, 52.2% used recovered fibres, up from 51.2% in the previous year.

‘Even during a global pandemic, the recovered paper industry continued to play its essential role in supplying the world paper and board industry with specification raw material,’ says divisional president Francisco Donoso of Spain-based Dolaf Servicios Verdes.

Asia incorporated more than 71% of recycled content into its paper and board production in 2020 as the leading cardboard producer. Europe achieved an incorporation rate average of more than 56% while the numbers for the USA/Canada and for Latin America were, respectively, 40% and 67%.

Notable in the statistics is a further slump in China’s imports from around 11 million tonnes in 2019 to little more than 7 million tonnes the following year, well over half of which was provided by the USA. Having been the chief market for Europe’s recovered fibre exports for many years, China slipped to fifth place in 2020 behind India, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam owing to its tightened import controls.

‘Without the pressure valve of international exports to cope with major surpluses within Europe,’ says Donoso, ‘the future for the recovered paper industry will look very bleak indeed.’

BIR’s analysis of key recovered fibre data was compiled with the assistance of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (EuRIC) and additional input data from RISI and CEPI.

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