Since 2000, the European paper value chain has been committed to the two-fold aim of increasing recycling and joining efforts to remove obstacles hampering paper recycling in Europe. The signatories of the new European Declaration on Paper Recycling have declared their commitment to reach 74% paper recycling by 2020.
In 2016, 72.5% of all paper consumed in Europe was recycled. Relative to 2015, the collection of paper for recycling increased by 0.9%, reaching 59.5 million tonnes. In parallel, paper
consumption slightly decreased, totalling 82.1 million tonnes. These two factors drove a considerable increase in the recycling rate: from 71.9% in 2015 to 72.5% in 2016.
Significantly, this means collection and recycling of paper has increased by 0.5 million tonnes compared to the base year of the Declaration (2015).
Clearly, an important step has already been taken towards reaching the 2020 target of 74% paper recycling. However, we are now fast approaching our maximum potential, since 22% of paper consumption can neither be collected nor recycled.
Changing consumption patterns are affecting the most recycled paper products. Newspaper consumption continued to decline in 2016. Increased consumption of corrugated boxes, the other most recycled paper product, is only partly compensating the challenge to the overall recycling rate of declining graphic (printing and writing) paper consumption. For the commitment period 2016 to 2020, recycling rate calculations have been independently verified by Deloitte. 2016 also features positive achievements at regional level.
The number of countries with a recycling rate below 60% has further dropped to nine. Equally, 17 countries now have recycling rates exceeding 70%, an increase of three, since 2015. On an international level, Europe continues to be the world champion in paper recycling, followed by North America. Other world regions’ paper recycling rates are improving, but coming from lower levels. In Europe, paper fibres are recycled 3.6 times on average, significantly outperforming the world average of 2.4 times.
While the EU is discussing how to transition to a circular economy, the paper fibre loop can serve as a model for circularity. Paper recycling is an industry ‘Made in Europe’. It prolongs value creation and creates job opportunities in Europe from a renewable, predominantly European resource, wood.
Driving year-on-year improvements in the ease and simplicity of recycling requires a huge effort from the paper value chain. This report details these continuing efforts, underlining the pride in the progress the EPRC has made.
CEPI is one of the signatories of the European Paper Recycling Council (EPRC) and holds its secretariat.
Read the press release on the EPRC website.