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European Paper Recycling Conference: Rapid Recovery

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Scrap paper recovery rates are reaching new highs in many European nations.

October 10, 2005

Decrees coming from the European Union’s legislature and commissions have set ambitious recycling goals for the EU’s member nations. But these goals are proving to be reachable through a combination of government programs and active market forces, according to presenters at presentation at the European Paper Recycling Conference, which took place in Brussels in early October.

 

In Sweden, “producer responsibility has a big impact,” according to Marcus Ocklind of IL Recycling AB, Stockholm. He added that, “Curbside collection is growing in all major towns” in that nation.

 

The government of Sweden is not only encouraging recycling, it is also discouraging landfilling. According to Ocklind, material taken to Swedish landfills is now taxed at a rate of 46 euros ($55) per metric ton.

 

Statistics from 2002, before some collection programs in Scandinavia were in full gear, already show recovered paper collection in Denmark, Finland and Norway exceeding consumption, although Sweden at that time still had a recovered paper deficit.

 

In Spain, an association of papermaking companies (Asociacion Espanola de Fabricantes de Pasta, Papel y Carton, or ASPAPEL) is launching an educational and bin placement program to improve secondary fiber collection.

 

David Barrio, director of recovered paper for the Madrid-based group, told attendees that Spain’s collection rate already exceeds 50 percent, but it still lags behind European leaders such as Germany, Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

 

ASPAPEL’s “Tu papel es importante” program has resulted in the placement of some 60,000 bins that help collect some 800,000 metric tons per year of scrap paper.

 

The Spanish paper industry wants to help collect the 2 million tons of post-consumer paper that ends up in Spanish landfills, says Barrio. “We can use that raw material in our mills,” he remarked.

 

The organization has a 65 percent recovery rate target for Spain in 2007. Barrio says the campaign targets schools in particular since students will be “recyclers of the future, and they will learn that paper is not waste.”

 

In the U.K. there is less paper being manufactured, but recyclers there still know they can find a home for recovered fiber, says Chris White of Aylesford Newsprint, Aylesford, U.K. White noted that in 2000, just 1 percent of U.K. scrap paper went to China. As of 2004, China received 28 percent “of a much, much bigger” overall tonnage amount.

 

Although the U.K. has historically been a major paper producer, its recovery rate has also historically lagged that of other European nations. But that has started to change, says White, as the EU targets have prompted local governments there to collect more paper.

 

The country’s recovery rate currently stands at 57 percent, according to White, who adds, “And that will continue to grow at a fairly fast rate over the next several years.”

 

White said that the quality of some paper collected through government programs in the U.K. is “going to cause a problem in the future,” but even so the nation’s overall collection rate could hit 75 percent by 2010, he estimates.

 

The European Paper Recycling Conference was hosted by the Recycling Today Media Group and took place at the Hilton Brussels.

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