The COVID-19 pandemic has harmed numerous sectors of the global economy, but paperboard packaging and tissue paper have been notable exceptions. No matter what shape the economic rebound takes, that means Turkey is likely to have a growing demand for finished paper and board and the recovered fiber needed to make it.
In a recent interview with Recycling Today, Ercan Yürekli of Istanbul-based recycling and trading firm Yürekli Kağıt indicates his company is preparing to help fill this demand, as are many other companies that belong to TÜDAM, an association of more than 50 Turkish recycling firms.
Yürekli says new capacity is being constructed in the form of additional paper machines to make containerboard in Turkey. He described the new capacity as “recycling based,” meaning Turkey’s ability to absorb scrap paper is poised to increase in the next three years.
By 2023, Turkey’s paper and board making capacity will exceed 6 million tons per year,” he comments, adding, “Turkey will be a more important import market.”
Yürekli Kağıt collects printers scrap in and around Istanbul, but Ercan Yürekli says Turkey’s scrap paper collection overall focuses on old corrugated containers (OCC), and even the collection rate for that stands at “only at 20 to 25 percent.”
“Industrial OCC is collected, but household fiber is less so,” says Yürekli. “Our current 4 million tons per year capacity means we’re already net importers of scrap paper.”
Yürekli Kağıt is among the TÜDAM member companies that have branched out into global recovered fiber trading. The company also has invested to collect and bale fiber in Romania, via a subsidiary called ARD.
Yürekli says shipping fiber via truck from Romania (as well as from Greece and Bulgaria) can be done affordably. Fiber also is brought in via sea container from Germany, the Netherlands and other more distant points in Europe. With new capacity coming online in Turkey, however, he sees supply lines extending farther—including to North America.
“Our aim is to help Turkey become a bigger importer of fiber, up to 2 million tons per year by 2023,” says Yürekli of on the TÜDAM association’s goals. “Our firm would like about 10 percent of this share,” he adds.
He said Turkish fiber trading firms, including his own, “are trying to find connections from the United States and Canada. We do see opportunities.” Some of the same firms that “are already exporting to India and Indonesia” are ideal prospects, he suggests.
Regarding Yürekli Kağıt’s qualifications, he says, “We know the business, as collectors, so I think we can forge good connections.” As with the ferrous scrap recycling market, he says shipping from the East Coast of the U.S. probably “makes sense.”
As in other parts of the world, a decrease in materials collected in Turkey because of COVID-19 has caused demand to outpace supply. “At the end of the first quarter of 2020, our collections dropped 60 percent,” says Yürekli. “It was very hard in April to find supply; it was already a weak system, mainly run by street collectors, and then due to the total lockdown, nobody was on the street.”
He continues, “At that time, we changed strategy. We saw that the demand increase presented opportunities. So now, increasing our import capacity through our trading arm has become a priority.”
Yürekli says he has been a member of the Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) “for many years,” and currently serves on the boards of both the BIR Paper Division and its Plastics Committee.
On the plastic side, Yürekli Kağıt is among the companies in Turkey that collects and recycles industrial scrap. As for household plastic bottle collection in that nation, he says Turkey has room to grow, which is why the nation is a “net importer of plastic scrap” as it is for fiber.
As the head of a family business that has been operating in Istanbul for about 60 years, Yürekli says while COVID-19 has been challenging, he nonetheless is excited about the opportunities the Turkish trading and recycling sector has in front of it in the new decade.