August 15, 2004 | General


BioCycle August 2004, Vol. 45, No. 8, p. 68
Viewed as a paper hungry tiger, China is projected to consume 43 million tons of recycled stock by 2010 – adding to the pressure to upgrade residential recycling services worldwide.
Pete Grogan

IN 2003, for the first time, 50 percent of all of the paper manufactured in the U.S. was recovered. Worldwide, approximately 330 millions of tons of paper are manufactured each year and about 160 million tons are recovered.
International demand for recovered paper is expected to increase at the rate of eight million metric tons per year through the remainder of the decade. That’s enough paper to fill the Empire State Building 120 times. The world’s paper producers have historically looked to North America and Europe for the largest volumes of paper, as these regions represent more than half of all the paper recovered in the world.
China Express
China is a paper hungry tiger, consuming recovered paper from around the world. According to EU Consulting/Moore & Associates, in 2002 China consumed nearly 21 million tons of recovered paper. By 2010, Chinese recovered paper consumption is projected by these consultants to top 43 million tons. This would represent a recovered paper use of approximately one million more tons than North American consumption projected for 2010.
The data on Chinese consumption is remarkable. China now uses half of the world’s cement, one-third of the steel, one-fourth of the copper, and one fifth of the aluminum. China is also the world’s second largest consumer of both energy and petroleum. China’s economy is the sixth largest in the world and it is the world’s third largest trading nation behind only the U.S. and Germany. If current projections hold true, China will be consuming 19 percent of the world’s recovered paper by 2010.
Demand for paper products, especially newspaper and packaging materials, is growing significantly in China as the country continues its march toward modernization. China has become the world’s fifth largest product exporter behind the U.S., Japan, Germany and France. According to The New York Times, the six ports in Southern China alone now do almost as much business as all the ports in the United States. China has been building very large state-of-the-art paper recycling based mills and will continue to do so for years to come.
However, China is facing many challenges that could prevent it from actualizing all of the aforementioned recovered paper projections. Infrastructure problems include electrical shortages. This past summer, Zhejiang Province paper mills were restricted to four days a week of operation due to electrical shortages. In some cities, mayors and governmental officials have all promised to watch less television and to lower air conditioning temperatures in an effort to gain public support for less electricity consumption. Shanghai is reported to be preparing to seed clouds over the city to make it rain, in the hope that a couple of degrees of reduced temperatures will help ward off brownouts.
And while China is developing the largest single nation demand for recovered paper, there will be healthy new demand throughout all of Asia to the tune of an additional increase of 14 million tons of recovered paper demand between 2004 and 2010. Even if China does not quite increase its consumption as expected, the Chinese demand for recovered paper will still be very strong.
Western and Eastern Europe will be the second world area demonstrating significant new demand for recovered paper, which should increase to 66 million tons by 2010 up from 48 million tons in 2002. Eastern Europe, like China, is continuing to modernize.
EU Consulting and Moore and Associates report that global consumption of recovered paper in 2010 will be 227 million tons, as compared, to the 162 million tons reported consumed in 2002. Again this estimate represents a gain of eight million tons a year for the remainder of the decade. This new demand would be slightly larger than all the paper currently recovered each year in Latin America, or approximately double the volume currently recovered annually in Canada.
The paper recycling industry in Europe, North America and Asia is going to face the most significant supply challenge in the history of the industry. With recovery rates already above 50 percent in Europe and North America, new volumes of recovery becomes a real challenge. Throughout Europe, North America and Asia, millions of businesses recycle and tens of millions of citizens participate in residential recycling programs.
The combined European and North American paper recycling industry increased recycling by approximately three million tons each year in the last decade. Now the world’s paper mills are expected to call for more than double that volume in new tons each year.
Pumping Up the Volume
If international paper mill demand for recovered paper is to be supplied to paper mills over the course of the next decade, the industry needs to make a serious commitment and an investment in educating those presently not recycling. The paper industry will need to encourage city governments not currently providing residential recycling services to their citizens to do so. Those providing lackluster recycling programs will need paper industry encouragement and assistance to develop effective recovery programs. The industry will also have to develop creative methods for providing recycling services to small businesses that are presently underserved.
The paper recycling industry is facing an exciting challenge, and the next few years will determine if the industry can rise to the recovery challenge. This industry has a good message in relation to resource and energy conservation, and the economic benefits provided to all via recycling. The paper industry needs to take the public to a new place where paper is never considered a waste material, but always a resource with many lives.
Pete Grogan is the Manager of Market Development for Weyerhaeuser Containerboard Packaging and Recycling. The opinions expressed here are his own.

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