European paper recycling rates reach 70.4%
Over 70% of paper was recycled in Europe in 2011, according to the latest figures from the European Recovered Paper Council (ERPC).
The amount of paper recycled rose by 1.5 percentage points between 2010 and 2011, from 68.9% to 70.4% respectively. In addition, the ERPC said that those in the paper supply chain also increased efforts to improve the quality of recycled paper.
The data was published in the ERPC’s annual monitoring report on October 11. The report uses a new reporting format which means that, for the first time, figures on carbon reduction and other indicators were included alongside those on the volume of paper collected and the recycling rate.
The ERPC was set up in November 2000 when the First European Declaration on Paper Recovery was launched, with the aim to monitor the progress made towards meeting the recycling targets.
The report highlights that the number of European countries exceeding the 70% paper recycling rate increased to 13, however 12 EU countries have paper recycling rates under 60%. The UK is within the top performers with a recycling rate of 78.7% for 2011.
The report uses data compiled by the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) through questionnaires to national member associations, to determine the recycling rate.
While the recycling rate gradually increased, the amount of paper collected and recycled remained stable in 2011 at 58 million tonnes – the same as in previous years. Of the 58 million tonnes, 9.2 million tonnes (16%) was sent for recycling in Europe by countries outside of the EU-27, Norway and Switzerland.
The ERPC report also notes research by CEPI which shows that paper and board were the most recycled packaging in Europe in 2010, with steel coming in second place with a recycling rate of 71%, glass with 68% and aluminium with 64%.
In addition to the increase in recycling rates, the report details work undertaken by the paper supply chain to improve recyclability and minimise waste. This includes the development of a scorecard by the adhesive manufacturing sector to assess the impact of adhesives in paper recycling.
The ERPC says that paper recycling is truly an industry ‘made in Europe’ unlike any other and - in line with EU policies – should be safeguarded to remain so. Where the paper industry was a pioneer in recycling – implementing a recycling society in Europe decades before the term was coined – it is now taking the challenge of using even more carefully not only ﬁbres but all the materials we have in our hands: even rejects from paper recycling can still become a valuable resource. This project, applying industrial symbiosis, is taking shape in the paper industry.
One issue facing the paper recycling industry is the increase in residues which are rejected from the process and cannot be used in the production of paper. In 2011, paper fibre was recycled just over an average of three times in Europe.
The report highlights work by CEPI which indicates that there could be over 20 ways of making use of the residues left over from the recycling process.
RPC also highlights the work undertaken by stakeholders to develop end of waste criteria for paper, which is intended to encourage the production of better grades and facilitate their flow throughout the EU. The criteria, which will detail when the material is no longer considered a waste, was expected in May 2012 but has yet to be published.
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