Will a shortage of fiber harm the global paper recycling industry?

Will a shortage of fiber harm the global paper recycling industry?

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

A review of assessments by paper industry analysts shows growing concern about the potential inability of the recycling industry in developed countries to supply enough fiber to feed new demand in the developing world.

The key issue being debated by analysts in reports and presentations is the theoretical limits to expanded recovery. For example, while the current fiber recovery level in the U.S. is at a highly commendable 67 percent, this is actually below levels elsewhere.

"Japan has the highest recovery rate in the world at about 77 percent," says Bill Moore of Moore and Associates. He notes that the Netherlands, Austria and Germany have similar rates. Moore says that Japan topped at 80 percent before falling back. "Thus, I would say 80 percent is a good theoretical maximum."

Hannah Zhao, an economist with RISI, agrees. "Although we don't know the exact limit on how high the paper recovery can go, we are almost sure that 80 percent is very close to the limit," she concludes. She points out that all of Western Europe, including the three countries listed by Moore, has a combined recovery level of about 75 percent.

At the same time, demand for recovered fiber continues to rise in the developing world. Zhao points out that China added 6.6 million tons per year of new paper and paperboard capacity last year. While some of these new machines replaced old, inefficient ones, China's demand for bales continues upward.

MRP Banner

To return to the Resource Recycling newsletter, click here.

 

.

.