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EU and US capacities are not consuming the same paper & board that the one being shipped to India and Asia: BIR

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Exclusive Interview with Mr. Jean-Luc Petithuguenin, PRESIDENT PAPER DIVISION, Bureau of International Recycling over recovered paper industry in India and abroad.

"EU and US capacities are not consuming the same paper & board that the one being shipped to India and Asia" : BIR

Founded in 1948, BIR was the first federation to support the interests of the recycling industry on an international scale. Today, BIR represents over 760 member companies from the private sector and 37 national associations, in more than 70 countries. Together, these members form the largest international recycling federation.

BIR comprises four Commodity Divisions: iron & steel, non-ferrous metals, paper, and textiles, and has four Commodity Committees dealing with stainless steel & special alloys, plastics, tyres & rubber, and E-scrap. The Pulp and Paper Times spoke about the various issues related to recovered paper trade with Mr. Jean-Luc Petithuguenin, PRESIDENT PAPER DIVISION, Bureau of International Recycling.

10th June 2021 | The Pulp and Paper Times: 

Q1: Being a president of BIR’s (Bureau of International Recycling) Paper Division, what are its main objectives & issues particularly for the recovered paper?

Our main goal is to promote recycling for paper and board at an international scale and to stand for a global circular economy. As recyclers, we produce raw materials from paper and board recycling that papermills can use as substitute to crushed trees. It is a perfect study case of what circular economy is, and it offers high environmental benefits by allowing a reasoned forest management that help restoring carbon sinks.
 
Q2: With the ban on imported waste paper in China effective from January 2021, How is the world going to be affected by this major shift? Will this ‘move’ bring a reduction in waste paper prices globally?

The Chinese ban is no longer an issue: it is a fact that recyclers now have to find new outcomes for their raw materials. We export to countries where new capacities have been built instead, such as India, Indonesia… 
 
Q3. The purchase of the Imported recovered fibers by China has been come down from 28 million tonnes (in Y2017) to 5 million (forecast for 2020 by BIR), The recovered fibers were importing to India at zero or negative price in December 2019. But in 2021, the price of imported recovered fibers is touching around 300+ USD per mt. Will, the export prices be expected to come down below 50 USD per MT in 2021 or further?

History tells us that anyone who can predict prices is a liar.
 
Q4. India is emerging out as the next big consumer of imported recovered fibers and it could be a next potential export market for European and American suppliers. How does BIR think to give a sustainable solution to meet the increasing requirement of imported recovered fibers by Indian Paper Mills keeping the contamination level below one percent? 

As I said, we are recyclers we produce raw materials that meet international standards, such as the EN-643 which is an international norm acknowledged by all the stakeholders of the paper and board recycling value chain. BIR is very active among organizations such as the OECD to promote the quality of the raw materials we produce and to make sure all guarantees are fulfilled. BIR also advocates for international shipments to be smoothed; at the moment, the main issue on our side as raw materials exporters is how to prove our administration that Indian mills for instance meet international environmental standards: and our clients will have to comply, we’re willing to help them in this.
 
Q5: India is emerging its paper production massively. According to a report, there will be a new investment of INR 90,000 Crores. in the paper industry by 2030. But, despite this, India has a very low recovery rate of waste paper. It is almost hovering around 26 percent and per capita consumption stands at 13 Kg per person per year. How does BIR suggest any strategy in Indian context for increasing the recovery rate?

To boost the collection rate locally one needs to put the strength on education. The priority is not collecting paper and board but to ensure no hazardousand toxic waste ends up in nature, and to educate people in putting all waste in one bin. That very bin can then be collected, sorted… and education is the key.
 
Q6: China is importing ‘Kraft pulp’ from South Asian countries to make the finished paper, but it is impacting the ‘circular economy’ in these countries, like in India, waste paper’s prices is touching new heights, Local paper mills are not getting the waste paper sufficiently. How do you assess this kind of situation?

It is the consequence of businesses’ decisions that have decided to relocate mills in India… As European, we export to India and we are happy to have new customers.
 
Q7: How much does BIR think that Indian recyclers follow the compliances of recycling parameters comparing to European recycling companies? Any suggestion?

As far as I know, this industry in India is far but beyond the level of waste management in Europe. There’s much progress to accomplish in the future.
 
Q8. Is the digital revolution making paper obsolete? Digital activities impacting paper consumption especially in the graphic paper segment. What is BIR’s stand on this?

On the contrary, I do believe that the digital age brings and new paper era we like to print, nothing compares the touch of paper… and we need to ship manufactured goods more thane ver, hence we need packaging. Besides, with computer you never know who is behind whereas when you are to sign a contract in person, you’re sure who is this.
 
Q9: New capacities coming on stream across Europe - including in France, Germany, Italy, and Turkey - will amount to almost 4 million tons of annual additional output potential over the next three years. Do you think that the export level of recovered paper to South & South East Asia will register a ‘drop’ from Europe?

If there could be such drop, it will be due to high freight costs and/or lack of containers; the new capacities in Europe are not to consume the same qualities as in India or Asia – and when I say « qualities » I am referring to international standards such as the EN-643 norm.
 
Q10: What BIR suggest to South & South East Countries to maintain their recovered paper supply chain in view of new capacities emerging in USA and Europe?

They need to keep on investing in their mills because, once again, EU and US capacities are not consuming the same paper and board that the one being shipped to South and South-East Asia.
 
                     
Q11: There are some predictions about Covid that it will not be eradicated completely, thus the consumer behavior, lockdown-like situation, less recovery rate of paper, will prevail accordingly. What is the future of waste paper in the next five years?

It is hard to say, but the last 18 months have been tough, and the paper and board recycling industry has been the key to keep the economy going on during the Covid crises. For example, within my company PAPREC Group, none of my plants closed down and we kept on collecting and recycling. I do believe the future will be quite bright when one looks at the new capacities both in Europe and South-East Asia.

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