Recycled fibre is a valuable raw material

Recovered paper is an important raw material in paper production. About 77 per cent of paper and paperboard consumed in Finland was recovered in 2015. In Europe, the recovery rate was 75 per cent in 2015.

About half of the paper used in Europe is manufactured from recycled fibre. The highest amount of recycled fibre is used in packaging materials and newsprint.

Paper and paperboard collection works efficiently in Finland

The industry in Finland uses all the recycled fibre available in the country. In 2015, 635,000 tonnes of paper was recovered in Finland. One third of that has been separate collected from households.

However, recycled fibre accounts for only about 5 per cent of all the fibre raw material used by the paper and paperboard industry in Finland. Finnish paper production is primarily based on the use of virgin fibre and thus fresh primary fibre is delivered for Europe’s paper recycling system.

Natural to use virgin fibre in Finland

Over 90 per cent of the paper produced in Finland is exported, which means the paper is recovered mostly in Central Europe, which is the Finnish forest industry’s biggest market area. Importing recovered paper to Finland is not economically or environmentally viable due to, for example, the high costs and emissions caused by long transport distances.

The choice of paper raw material – virgin fibre or recycled fibre – is largely determined by what fibre is available in each country. In countries that possess extensive forest resources but have small populations, paper is primarily manufactured from virgin fibre.

In densely-populated countries, where there is a high availability of recycled fibre, paper is manufactured mainly from recycled fibre. This is why paper production in Finland is based on virgin fibre and in Central Europe on recycled fibre. Production at Finnish companies’ mills in Central Europe is also largely based on recycled fibre, as there is more recycled fibre available in the densely-populated countries of this region.

Recycled fibre cannot be used without virgin fibre

Estimates suggest that if the European paper industry used only recycled fibre, paper production would end within a few months because fibre cannot be recycled endlessly to create paper – it must be combined with virgin fibre. Recycling helps use natural resources efficiently and it supports sustainable development. Wood fibre can be recycled 5-7 times after which the quality of the fibre suffers; it becomes, for example, weaker.

Not all paper grades can be recycled. Such papers include, for example, cigarette paper, wallpaper, books and hygienic tissue papers. These papers are estimated to account for approximately 19 per cent of paper consumption.