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China’s Recent Ban on Solid Waste Imports to Shift Global Recovered Paper Market


China’s Recent Ban on Solid Waste Imports to Shift Global Recovered Paper Market

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – Recovered Paper – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. Here is a summary of the report’s key findings.

Paper waste exporters worldwide now have to shift their supply chains: China, a global key processor of imported waste, banned solid waste imports in 2021. Countries with insufficient domestic paper processing capacity will now be forced to develop these facilities, against the current global trend towards the circular economy. 

Key Trends and Insights

Paper recycling worldwide is increasing robustly. According to the European Paper Recycling Council, paper recycling in the EU reached 72% in 2019. The U.S. attained a record recycling performance indicator of 68.2% in 2018; this figure then started to drop to 65.7% in 2020, following a decline in the volume of American waste paper being processed abroad. Despite the rise in paper recycling facilities in the U.S., the country has not yet overcome its shortage of reprocessing plants.

In 2020, global imports of waste and scrap of paper and paperboard declined by 15% against the previous year (IndexBox estimates). This decline was largely a result of China’s systematic curb of paper waste imports, an initiative aimed at improving the country’s environmental situation.

Since 1 January 2021, a full ban has been in force in China regarding solid waste imports, which were to be sent for recycling inside the country. This ban also includes all paper waste. Indonesia has also announced similar plans to curb waste imports. The EU and the U.S. now face the emerged issue of rearranging supply chains in paper recycling.

With approx. $1.7B of imported paper waste, China accounted for approx. 29% of the recycling of global waste and scrap paper and paperboard before 2021. Now, this market share is to be captured by other actors. India, Vietnam and Malaysia, among others, have started to increase the volume of imported paper waste, thereby partially sustaining the global recycling balance.

The recycling of paper and cardboard is set to increase worldwide, in line with the global shift to a circular economy. A decline in the global export and import of waste paper products is therefore equally forecast, against increasingly stringent environmental standards in particular countries. The key exporters of paper waste, such as the U.S., the UK, and Japan will now be forced to develop their own paper and cardboard recycling capacity.

Recovered Paper Imports by Country

In 2020, global recovered paper imports decreased by -10.5% to 38M tonnes, falling for the fourth year in a row. In value terms, they contracted by -15% to approx. $6B.

In value terms, China ($27.7B) led the market, alone. The second position in the ranking was occupied by the U.S. ($5.4B). It was followed by Japan.

In 2020, China (9M tonnes), distantly followed by Germany (4.3M tonnes), Indonesia (2.8M tonnes), the Netherlands (2.7M tonnes) and India (2M tonnes) were the main importers of recovered paper, together committing 54% of total imports. Mexico (1.6M tonnes), Taiwan (Chinese) (1.4M tonnes), Austria (1.3M tonnes), Thailand (1.2M tonnes), Turkey (1.2M tonnes), South Korea (1.2M tonnes), Canada (0.8M tonnes) and France (0.8M tonnes) occupied a minor share of total imports.

In 2020, the average recovered paper import price amounted to $156 per tonne, which is down by -5% against the previous year. Prices varied noticeably by the country of destination; the country with the highest price was India ($201 per tonne), while the Netherlands ($106 per tonne) was amongst the lowest.

Source: IndexBox AI Platform