At a time when reducing carbon emissions is a global priority, neither shipping companies nor politicians should be in a hurry to interrupt the long-standing global supply chain of recovered fiber. That was the message from former President of the International Recycling Bureau (BIR), Ranjit Baxi, at the International Recycling Week online event on June 21.
Baxi, managing director of London-based International Recycling Ltd., said Europe generates 4-7 million tonnes of excess recovered fiber per year “for which we need a home.” Traditionally, two things have made it a practical and profitable business: affordable ocean freight rates from Europe to Asia, and regulations that support the free flow of waste paper from one country to another. (The same circumstances apply to excess scrap paper in North America.)
The affordable ocean freight situation has faded over the past 15 months, as Green Deal policies envisioned in the European Union could end free trade in old corrugated containers (OCCs) and other qualities being shipped from Europe.
On freight, Baxi said rates in Europe are starting to drop from peaks reached earlier in the COVID-19 crisis, but are “still excessively high for our product to accommodate such sea freight “.
Shipping companies are aware of the role of recovered fiber in filling the large ships they have built, Baxi says. “I remember talking to a president of a shipping company, and he said, ‘The recovered fiber helps us fill the core cargo of our container ships so that we can carry other cargoes that we earn on. money. “”
Ships have gotten even bigger since that conversation, Baxi said, “and that concept hasn’t changed.” He added: “My message to the shipping industry and the recycling industry is: Please work together; let’s be responsible partners and work as a team.
In the current situation, Baxi said it was “not possible” for scrap paper exporters to plan ahead with “yo-yo pricing” for freight. For shipping companies, it is not ideal to launch ships with empty containers. For the sake of everyone on the mill, Baxi said, scrap paper is an “essential raw material for carbon savings and the fight against climate change,” and disrupting its use is counterproductive.
In a separate presentation, Jori Ringman, Director General of the Brussels-based Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), expressed his optimism for the global and European containerboard and corrugated box industry.
There are many trends prompting European cardboard producers to increase capacity, Ringman said, including sustainability and circular economy movements creating an abandonment of plastic in some applications. Ringman pointed to a 2019 study by Sweden-based Material Economics which postulated that “in Europe alone, some 4.5 million metric tonnes of plastic packaging could be replaced by paper and cardboard without loss of functionality ”.
The EU’s green deal could further boost consumption of recycled-content paper and cardboard in particular, Ringman said. CEPI and other organizations expect more Green Deal regulations to be announced later this year and, in preparation, set a 90% recycling rate target for fiber-based packaging in the EU by 2030.
Ringman concluded, “Long-term trends are on our side. Policies will create change and the industry is proactive in investing to make it happen. “
In the opening comments of the event, Hrishikesh Vora, CEO of Mumbai-based Adler Paper, said, “2020 has been a tough year, and just when we thought 2020 was bad and 2021 was going to be. better, we got ‘Lockdown Part 2,’ and that has also wreaked havoc in all of our industries.
Despite the effects of COVID-19 in India and around the world, Vora credited the Materials Recycling Association of India (MRAI) for supporting the recycling industry on several fronts. “I am optimistic that our collective industry will be strong, that it will join hands, that it supports each other competently and that it goes through 2021 stronger,” he said.
International Recycling Week was organized by the United Arab Emirates-based company Waste & Recycling Middle East & Africa magazine.