The UK’s paper industry has challenged the government to ensure Britain remains an attractive location for the manufacturing of paper and its products after Brexit.
The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI), the trade association representing the UK’s paper-based industries, issued the call in a report titled The Economic Value of the UK Paper-Based Industries 2019, which aims to show the contribution of the sector to the UK economy.
This is the second such report to be published by the organisation, with the first released last year.
In his foreword to the report, Richard Coward, president of the CPI, said: “Paper is a uniquely renewable and recyclable non-fossil resource and this report shows how the UK’s paper-based industries can meet the challenge of the circular bio-economy and how they can contribute to the future development of the UK in sustainable materials.”
The report explains that 68% of all raw materials in UK papermaking are recovered fibre.
With several difficulties facing the sector (see letsrecycle.com story), Mr Coward highlighted the opportunities in meeting domestic demand and in supplying export markets, claiming each is vital if the UK is to sustain manufacturing investment in hard-pressed communities post-Brexit.
The report says that in 2017, 69% of all paper and board placed on the market in the UK was recycled.
However, it also explains that 22% of all paper cannot be recycled, either because it has been used for hygiene products or because it is in long term use.
Andrew Large, director general of the CPI, said: “The government’s Resources and Waste Strategy makes it clear that the way we use materials will have to radically change in the future, if our economy is to be placed on a sustainable footing.
“Paper, and products made of paper, should be in the vanguard of this materials revolution, and they will be if appropriate investment can be found.”
Launched in December 2018 (see letsrecycle.com story), the last government’s Resources and Waste Strategy pledged to match or go further than the European Union’s circular economy package proposals.
The report claims 4.7 million tonnes of recycled paper was exported for papermaking in other countries in 2017, while a further 100,000 tonnes is imported by the UK each year.
More than 60% of recovered paper exports were to China in 2017, and industry insiders have said progressive restrictions imposed by the country on the import of material caused the commodity’s value to plummet (see letsrecycle.com story).
In a letter accompanying the report Mr Large said: “This report shows that the UK is not only the largest net importer of paper in the world, but also one of the largest exporters of paper for recycling, making it vital that policymakers are aware of the implications of the challenges facing the sector.
“The consequences of current government policy on issues such as energy pricing and accounting, R&D funding and recycling are of acute concern to our members, and CPI will work to give the sector a voice in the ongoing discussions on these topics.”
“It is vital that policymakers are aware of the implications of the challenges facing the sector”
The report touches on the issue of contamination, which it says has increased with the proliferation of different kerbside collection methods.
This, the report claims, has led to public confusion about what to recycle, and CPI estimates each percentage point increase in feedstock contamination costs UK papermakers around £8 million annually.
Changes to the extended producer responsibility system and household collections, proposed in the Environment Bill which passed its first reading last week (see letsrecycle.com story), are thought by the CPI to have the potential to improve the consistency of collection and overall quality of material collected.