Global trade association BIR has said that its latest data analysis shows that free trade must continue to maximise use of recovered fibre.
In the Paper and board recycling in 2020: Overview of world statistics report, BIR said that despite the upheaval caused by Covid, in all of the paper and board produced, 52.2% of it used recovered fibre compared to 51.2% in the previous year.
Although paper and board production fell 3.4% in 2020, production of recovered paper only fell by 1.6% to a little under 240 million tonnes.
Asia used 71% recycled content in paper and board in this year, with Europe using 56% and USA/Canada 40% and Latin America 67%.
This was also the last year when China was an importer of recovered fibre. Its imports fell in 2020 to 7 million tonnes from 11 million tonnes in 2019, with half of the 2020 figure coming from the USA.
As a result of this, China dropped to fifth in terms of total imports in 2020, with India, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam all ahead of it.
However, BIR has warned in the report that progress cannot be maintained without the recovered fibre sector having access to free trade.
BIR Paper Division President Francisco Donoso of Spain’s DOLAF Servicios Verdes said: “Even during a global pandemic, the recovered paper industry continued to play its essential role in supplying the world paper and board industry with specification raw material.
“Recovered paper usage will not achieve its full potential and the economics of paper and board recycling will be seriously compromised without free international trade.”
On European Commission proposals that would make it harder to export fibre outside of the EU, he added: “Without the pressure valve of international exports to cope with major surpluses within Europe, the future of the recovered paper industry will look very bleak indeed.”