Changing consumer behaviour, greater digitisation, climate protection and the circular economy pose enormous challenges for the recovered paper industry, paper insiders have been told.
The Covid pandemic had also affected a scrap paper market in transition, according to Werner Steingass, vice-president of the German recycling organisation BVSE when he spoke at the 2022 Altpapiertag event in Berlin.
He began by condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, fearing the ‘comprehensive, incalculable negative effects’ of war would have serious economic consequences for the European economy.
Turning to the pandemic, Steingass argued the previous 24 months had shown that the recovered paper industry could adapt to exceptionally difficult situations. ‘We were able to recognise ourselves as systemically important and as professionally operating companies successfully assert themselves in the national and international markets,’ he said. ‘Our know-how made it possible to collect paper in line with the massive increase in demand, process it and deliver it to the paper manufacturers. As a paper recycling industry, we live circular economy every day.’
According to the European Confederation of the Paper Industry, German paper mills consumed 18.3 million tonnes of scrap paper in 2021, an increase of over 8% compared to 2020. With a produced volume of new paper of 23.1 million tonnes, this corresponded to 79% used paper rate. Scrap paper imports to Germany have risen to 5.3 million tonnes and exports have fallen to 1.7 million tonnes, resulting in net imports of 3.6 million tonnes. Three years ago, the net import volume was less than two million tonnes.
Steingass felt that growing public concern over climate protection and recycling management had prompted a noticeable growth in investment, both for new recycling and disposal plants and for the modernisation or expansion of existing plants.
Export restrictions are a mistake
BVSE considers the work of the global scrap paper industry to be endangered by restrictions on free trade. A restriction on exports by the EU Commission, when there is insufficient demand in Europe for the use of recycled raw materials including paper, would reduce the value of recycled raw materials, it argues.
Steingass told delegates ‘Waste paper is needed worldwide like never before. It is the most important and above all the sustainable source for the paper industry worldwide. Every year over 250 million tonnes are used for paper and cardboard production around the world. Paper recycling also plays a significant role in international efforts to combat the climate crisis and the political will for green solutions.’
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