Changing consumer behavior, greater digitalization, climate protection and the circular economy pose huge 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 German recycling organization BVSE during his speech at the Altpapiertag 2022 event in Berlin.
He began by condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, fearing that the “global and incalculable negative effects” of the war could have serious economic consequences for the European economy.
Regarding the pandemic, Steingass argued that the previous 24 months had shown that the recovered paper industry could adapt to exceptionally difficult situations. “We were able to recognize ourselves as systemically important and professional companies that successfully assert themselves in domestic and international markets,” he said. “Our know-how made it possible to collect the paper according to the massive increase in demand, to transform it and deliver it to the papermakers. As a paper recycling industry, we live in the circular economy every day.
According to the European Paper Industry Confederation, German paper mills consumed 18.3 million tonnes of waste paper in 2021, an increase of more than 8% compared to 2020. With a produced volume of new paper of 23 .1 million tons, this corresponds to 79% rate of paper used. Imports of waste paper to Germany increased to 5.3 million tonnes and exports fell to 1.7 million tonnes, resulting in net imports of 3.6 million tonnes. Three years ago, the net volume of imports was less than two million tonnes.
Steingass said growing public concern about climate protection and recycling management has led to a noticeable increase in investment, both for new recycling and disposal plants and for upgrading or expanding existing plants. .
Export restrictions are a mistake
BVSE considers that the work of the global scrap paper industry is threatened by restrictions on free trade. An export restriction by the European 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, he argues.
Steingass told delegates, “Old paper is needed around the world like never before. It is the most important and above all the most sustainable source for the paper industry in the world. Each year, more than 250 million tons are used for the production of paper and board worldwide. Paper recycling also plays an important role in international efforts to tackle the climate crisis and political will for green solutions.
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