Recovered paper is a good and valuable raw material for paper manufacturers and demand for it is increasing. Reasons for this include the price competitiveness and increasingly good quality of recycled fibre as well as the diversifying range of uses for recovered paper. Recycling also supports sustainable development and it helps efficient use of natural resources.
The Waste Directive adopted in 2008 includes an article which defines when waste is categorised as secondary product, not waste. It also requires policy makers to develop end-of-waste criteria for certain products. Recovered paper is one of the first waste streams which are included in the criteria work. The end-of-waste criteria for recovered paper should be completed in 2010.
Finns among world leaders in paper recovery and recycling
67% of the paper and paperboard consumed in Finland is collected. Globally, the average rate of collection is around 50%.
In Finland, the largest amount of recovered paper is collected by industry, which accounts for over half (52%) of all recovered paper. Offices account for 10% of recovered paper and the rest, 38%, is gathered by households.
The paper and paperboard recycling rate in Europe reached a record high of 68,9% in 2010. Almost 60 million tonnes of paper and paperboard was recycled, and over half of the raw material used in the European paper industry is recycled fibre. The European paper industry, in the European Declaration on Paper Recycling, has set a new and ambitious voluntary target of recycling 70 % of all paper consumed in Europe, to be attained by 2015.
All paper grades cannot be recycled, including cigarette paper, wallpaper, books and hygienic paper. These grades account for an estimated 19% of total paper consumption.
Virgin fibre always needed with recycled fibre
About half of the paper consumed in Europe is manufactured using recycled fibre. The largest amount of recycled fibre is used in packaging materials and newspaper paper grades.
Almost all of the recycled fibre available in Finland is used here. The forest industry in Finland uses some 750,000 tonnes of recovered paper as raw material annually. This equals about 5% of its raw material fibre demand.
Finland is a paper exported with small population
The small share of recycled fibre is explained by the fact that over 90% of the paper produced in Finland is exported and subsequently recovered primarily in Central Europe, which is the largest market area for the Finnish forest industry.
Importing recovered paper back to Finland would not make economic or ecological sense because of the high costs and emissions caused by transports over long distances.
In countries with large forest resources and few people, paper is mostly made from virgin fibre. In densely populated countries with ample supplies of recovered paper, paper manufacturing mostly relies on recycled fibre.
The production of Finnish-owned mills in Central Europe is also largely reliant on recovered fibre as it is more readily available in these populous countries.
Some virgin fibre is always needed together with recycled fibre
According to estimates, if the European paper industry were to rely on recycled fibre alone, paper manufacturing would end in a few short months, as it is impossible to reuse recycled fibre exclusively to make paper – some strong virgin fibre is needed in the mix. Wood fibre can endure some four to six uses, after which its qualities, such as strength, begin to deteriorate.