As its paper production stabilizes and its internal scrap paper generation increases, China’s appetite for imported scrap paper may have peaked. However, exporters of recovered fibre already find themselves conducting more business with China’s neighbouring nations in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) trading bloc.
Presenters at the RISI Fifth Annual China International Recycled Fiber Conference, held in Zhuhai, China, in early December, included representatives from paper associations in Vietnam and Thailand, two of the ASEAN countries importing more recovered fibre.
Dr. Vu Ngoc Bao, vice chairman and secretary general of the Vietnam Pulp and Paper Association (VPPA), said new paper and board capacity coming online in Vietnam is causing an expected 34% increase in production between 2015 and 2018. That is despite the nation’s only newsprint mill having halted production at the end of 2015, with its owner having declared bankruptcy.
By 2018, the VPPA forecasts Vietnamese mills will import more than 1.9 million tonnes of recovered fibre. Recovered paper is expected to supply 85% of Vietnam’s furnish, including 60% in its tissue sector.
According to Bao, only 48% of that recovered paper can be supplied from within Vietnam, with the remaining 52% needing to be imported. In recent years, Vietnam’s recovered fibre imports have come “primarily from the United States and Japan,” said Bao.
Bhakkawat Bhasipol of Thailand-based SCG Packaging and the Thai Pulp and Paper Industries Association (TPPIA) said ASEAN nations feature growing economies and the prospect of increased paper and board consumption by their citizens. While the U.S. and Japan consume more than 210 kilograms of paper per person, Thailand is still at the 65 kilograms level and Vietnam is at 34 kilograms per person.
Bhasipol said Thailand collects enough fibre to supply about 70% of its domestic recovered paper needs, but imports the other 30% -- about 1.1 million tonnes in 2016. He said about 70% of the recovered fibre consumed by Thai mills is OCC (old corrugated containers).
In 2015, Japan “accounted for more than 30%” of those imports, said Bhasipol, followed by the U.S. and Australia. “We are trying to import more from European countries,” he added, “because the price is rising in the Japanese market.”
He said the TPPIA is cooperating with government agencies in Thailand to boost the nation’s paper recycling rate. Bhasipol said a goal is to “raise awareness in communities and schools—and educate the children to separate and recycle paper.”
The RISI Fifth Annual China International Recycled Fiber Conference was 8-9 December in Zhuhai, China.