As 2016 paper recovery rates get announced, it appears that they have remained broadly the same as they have for the past 8 years. Final figures published by the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) shows the total collection for 2016 to be 7.82 million tonnes, marginally down on 2015 figures.
Whilst the volume has more or less stayed the same, some commentators would argue that the paper recovery rates have actually increased as proportionately, more paper is being recovered. This is down to factors such as the ‘paper-less office’ and other changes in lifestyles and social trends. Newspaper print figures also back up the fact that less paper is being produced, with a sharp drop (20%) in the consumption of newsprint over the past 5 years. However, whilst there has been a decrease in newspaper consumption, there has been an increase in convenience foods and online shopping deliveries which has lead to an increase in board packaging. This, to some degree, has seen a shift from paper recycling to cardboard recycling. The evolution of paper recovery looks set to continue with the high possibility of further changes.
What’s Happened to the Recovered Paper?
The consumption of the recovered paper in the domestic mills fell by 10% in 2016, ending on 3.02 million tonnes, this fall in tonnage could be the impact of machine closures within the domestic markets.
Exported paper for recycling was up in 2016 from the 2015 figures, with 4.93 million tonnes being exported for recycling. Of that, 3.7 million tonnes was sent to the Chinese papermakers – that’s 47% of the paper recovery total for 2016.
Can we Recycle More Paper?
The Confederation of Paper Industries calculates that 68% of all paper and cardboard which was produced in the UK in 2016 was recycled. 20% of that produced cannot be recycled. When all factors are considered, these are impressive figures, they could imply that the UK is nearing the recycling limit of what is sensibly achievable.
Paper Packaging Compliance
For 2014, the amount of paper-based packaging in the UK market in 2014 is estimated to have been 4.75 million tonnes, an increase of 22% on previous estimates.
The amount of PERNs that can be claimed for mixed papers for packaging obligated companies has increased. In 2015, the amount of PERNs which could be claimed were 12.5%, for 2017 the amount has increased to 34.5%. There has been a transitional allowance of 23% for 2016.
The Future of Paper Recovery
It is predicted that come the end of 2017, recycling rates for paper and cardboard will have risen to 85%. The future challenge will be improving the quality of the materials, this will maintain the demand in third party markets regardless of the economic conditions. This is the only way to future-proof domestic reprocessors, and reduce the vulnerability of the collection infrastructure to market forces.