Recycling of paper refers to the process by which waste paper or scrap paper is recovered to turn it into new paper products. Recycled paper is turning out to be a significant investment in reducing the load on the consumption of wood, electricity, and emission of pollutants in the primary pulping process. As per the World Wildlife Federation, recycling one ton of waste paper can produce 800 kg of recycled fiber raw materials, saving 17 trees and a landfill space of 3m3. Recycled paper also saves incineration reducing carbon emissions.
Recycled paper can be further used for regular applications, such as newsprint paper, cardboard, writing, printing, or packaging products. Anti-plastic consumer sentiment and demand for environmentally friendly and sustainable products have given special prominence to recycled paper. The contribution of recycled paper in reducing greenhouse gases has really touched a chord with the consumer, which is expected to fuel market growth.
The recycled paper industry has reached its maturity phase. Recycled paper manufacturers are still trying to modernize the sorting process. Additionally, manufacturers are also focusing on newer processes for drinking as it is important in establishing the quality and the price of the recycled paper eventually.
|Fastest Growing Market||Europe|
|Largest Market||North America|
|Report Coverage||Revenue Forecast, Competitive Landscape, Growth Factors, Environment & Regulatory Landscape and Trends|
The supply-demand dynamic in the recycled paper market and its prices are very volatile and unpredictable. There is a common cyclical pattern that can be seen in this market. Recycled paper manufacturers tend to increase capacity when paper and pulp prices are high. This tends to oversupply, and prices fall.
Once the demand catches up with the supply, paper and pulp prices rise. This directly affects the recycled paper market. High prices of virgin fibers are suitable for recycled paper. When virgin fiber prices fall, end-users tend to prefer paper from virgin fiber due to its high quality. Government regulations and subsidies have eased this cyclical process, followed by public awareness of recycled products.
The literacy rate, especially in developing economies, is rapidly increasing. Internet access to the remotest parts has accelerated education. Burgeoning urbanization has also created easier access to education, especially to children of migrant workers. The rising middle class has influenced the literacy rates, creating an impact on the demand for paper.
Demand for paper, especially in the food and beverage industry, has increased rapidly. Consumers feel more comfortable in paper packaging instead of plastic packaging. Deep consumer sentiment regarding the use of plastic has been working well for paper consumption. Recycled paper in F&B provides a sustainable packaging solution as consumers had started getting aware of recyclable products. The packaging industry is the one that is seen as a long-term market growth driver. The demand for graphic paper that is used in magazines and newspapers has been diminishing, but the packaging paper demand is increasing rapidly.
As mentioned earlier, proper segregation, minimum contamination, and other processes, such as deinking, are vital in the recycled paper market. Companies in the U.S. are trying to bring in technology to help in increasing productivity. Single Steam Recyclers, Florida, U.S., in October 2019, introduced 14 robotic sorters. These sorters are used to separate OCC, film, and containers.
The use of technology is ensuring that the companies can put better pricing on their cleaner paper bales. Sorters have also ensured that there are fewer people employed, ultimately increasing productivity. The adoption of robots in Material Recovery Facility (MRF) has witnessed a rise in North American companies' yield. MRFs have the largest technology adoption compared to mixed waste, electronics recycling, and PET recycling.
As Asian countries have started reducing their imports, the U.S. and Canada have begun to strengthen their recycled paper manufacturing infrastructure. Atlantic Packaging in October 2020 announced the expansion of its plant in Ontario. The plant will produce 400,000 tons per year of containerboard and other corrugated products. This expansion is expected to be complete by 2022.
Companies are also looking to adapt to changing market conditions. In August 2020, Domtar announced that the company would shift from making printing and writing paper grades to produce recycled packaging using OCC and mixed paper in its plant in Kingsport, Tennessee. The plant is expected to produce around 600,000 tons and be operational by 2023. According to the American Forest, the U.S. is still trying to cope with the import restrictions for the mixed paper by China, owing to which the country's recycling rate dropped from 68.1% in 2018 to 66.2% in 2019and Paper Association.
Sonoco, U.S. is looking to invest USD 83 million in their mill in Wisconsin. This move will allow the mill to use low cost mixed paper and OCC. More companies such as Total Fiber Recovery are looking to counter China's import restrictions by setting up mills for mixed paper, and OCC in the U.S. As a greater number of plants become operational, it remains to be seen how the U.S. recycled paper market pans out.
European paper manufacturing companies are also looking to expand and are turning to the U.S. markets. Saica, a paper packaging company in Spain, is looking to expand its operations and build its first plant in Ohio, the U.S., investing around USD 72 million. The company already has six mills in France, Spain, and the U.K. and generates around 3.5 million short tons of paper per year.
Europe has always been at the forefront of the use of recycled paper. Europe has been able to manage a level of expertise in sorting and other processes required for paper recycling. Literacy rate, socio-economic factors, and automation are factors for the rise of the recycled paper market in Europe. Additionally, the waste management infrastructure makes the segregation streamlined. According to the European Paper Recycling Council that was set up in Nov 2000, the recycling rate for 2019 was 72%.
Asia-Pacific is a huge influencer of the recycled paper market, especially in densely populated countries China and India. Earlier, the rate of recovered paper imports was comparatively higher. But now China has reduced its import by banning the import of mixed paper in 2018. This has resulted in a 39% drop in recovered fiber in 2019. OCC and other recovered fiber grades are allowed, but that too with strict contamination thresholds. For comparison, China imported 28.4 million short tons in 2017, 18.8 million short tons in 2018, and just 11.4 million short tons in 2019. The Chinese environment ministry aims to completely ban the imports by 2021, which could change the recycled paper industry with pricing shifting to domestic.
India, on the other hand, looks to cash in on the import restrictions of recovered fiber by China. It has increased its imports, especially from the U.S. and Canada. However, they also have deployed a 1% contamination threshold. Indonesia and Vietnam are the other two countries that have put strict restrictions on mixed paper imports. However, OCC imports are not affected.