Since 2000, the European paper value chain has demonstrated its commitment to the two-fold aim of increasing recycling rates and joining efforts to remove obstacles hampering paper recycling in Europe. Consistent with this, in 2011, the signatories of the European Declaration on Paper Recycling declared their commitment to reach 70% paper recycling by 2015.
And we not only achieved but exceeded this target. In 2015, 71.5% of all paper consumed in Europe was recycled, corresponding to 1.2 million tonnes more than the 70% target. Paper consumption has slightly increased compared to 2014, reaching 82.5 million tonnes. Compared to the base year of the Declaration (2010), collection and recycling of paper has increased by 1.4%, corresponding to 0.8 million tonnes of paper.
Considering the Declaration period as a whole, we have seen a considerable increase in the recycling rate in the first half of the period, but the rate has stabilised since then.
We are quite clearly starting to reach maximum potential, since 22% of paper consumption cannot be collected or recycled e.g. wallpaper, hypiene paper.
This situation is linked to changing consumption patterns affecting the most recycled paper products. Newspaper consumption has continued to decline in 2015. Equally, increased consumption of corrugated boxes, the other most recycled paper product, is only partly compensating the effect on the overall recycling rate of declining graphic (printing and writing) paper consumption.
Despite the now limited potential for further improvements in the recycling rate, we are still aiming higher. In fact, as this report is being printed, a new, even more ambitious commitment for 2016-2020 is being prepared. This will keep the industry moving on its path towards ever-higher recycling rates.
In 2015, we can also notice positive achievements at the regional level, despite differences between regions continuing to exist. The number of countries with a recycling rate below 60% has dropped to 10, 2 less than 2010, but one more than 2014. Over the last year, the number of countries exceeding recycling rates of 70% was 15, just like the year before.
On an international level, Europe continues to be the world leader in paper recycling followed by North America. Other world regions’ paper recycling rates are improving, but starting from lower levels. In Europe, paper fibres are reused 3.5 times on average, while the world average is only 2.4. While the EU is discussing ways to move into 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 job opportunities in Europe from a renewable, predominantly European resource, wood.
CEPI is a Signatory Member of the ERPC and holds its secretariat.
ERPC website: www.paperforrecycling.eu