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Stricter export rules and high freight costs make business ‘very, very difficult’

Severe restrictions on exports of recovered paper from Europe to the rest of the world would be ‘a very big mistake’, warned BIR Paper Division president Jean-Luc Petithuguenin of France-based Paprec during the world recycling organisation’s latest convention.

Europe’s surplus of recovered fibre is currently 7-8 million tonnes per year and exports are therefore ‘really, really crucial for our industry’, according to Julia Blees, senior policy officer at the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (EuRIC). She added that the European Commission ‘knows how important recycling is to reach all its goals’.

The Commission’s proposals allow for overseas shipments to continue as long as exporters can prove that receiving facilities in other countries operate under ‘equivalent conditions’ to those in Europe regarding environmental protection and human health. Blees suggested one way to achieve this would be through third party auditing.

Broad call for standard 

The need for Europe-wide harmonisation, not only of end-of-waste status but also of legal procedures and of quality, was emphasised by Francisco Donoso of Alba Servicios Verdes in Spain. Ranjit Baxi of UK-based J&H Sales International agreed that there were significant differences in collection systems throughout Europe and that harmonisation of streams would help achieve a standardised export product.

Around 399 million tonnes of paper and board was consumed worldwide in 2020.

An extra cost

Banning or heavily restricting exports would have cost implications for Europe and could even make it cheaper to import paper from Asia, it was suggested. New markets were emerging, Baxi added, and exporters had to move our recovered paper to those markets. ‘Don’t make international trade or exports more complicated by unnecessary regulation’.

Commenting on current market conditions, Baxi noted that freight costs have almost quadrupled over the past 18 months making business ‘very, very difficult’. He expects the current market to normalise during the course of 2022.

ResearchGate graph: What does the future hold for paper & board consumption?

Paper and paperboard consumption in 2000 and 2010 and projections to 2020 and 2030 (in million metric tons). Source: [6].

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