IMPACTPaperRec / Facts & Figures / Q&A IMPACTPaperRec

Why was IMPACTPapeRec set up?

IMPACTPapeRec is a European project aiming to boost the Circular Economy by further increasing the separate collection of Paper for Recycling (PfR) and promote appropriate schemes to avoid landfilling and incineration.

Currently, the production of paper and board in the EU stands at 91 million tonnes per year. Consumption of paper and board stands at 82 million tonnes. 58 million tonnes of PfR are collected from households, commerce, industry and offices. The paper recycling rate is therefore 71,7%. The contribution of PfR to the raw material mix of the European paper industry has increased over the last few years from 25 million tonnes in 1991 to 47 million tonnes in 2014.

However, the increase in the availability of PfR has not taken place in all EU member states, and this is especially true in Central and Eastern European countries. Moreover, the quality of the collected material does not always meet the requirements of paper recycling. Without additional measures, these two facts will make it difficult to keep up with the increases in PfR collection observed over the last few years.

How is it financed?

The project is financed by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme and will last over a period of two years from February 2016 to January 2018.

Who are the partners?

IMPACTPapeRec is a consortium of 19 partners from eight countries, i.e. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Poland, Romania and Spain. The innovative approach of the defined participatory strategies on separate paper collection for efficient recycling is based on the commitment of the whole paper value chain: Research entities (ITENE and PTS), large paper companies (Saica, Hamburger, Stora Enso), large waste management company (Tega), a European retailer (Carrefour), representative SME groups (PROPAKMA, Fenix Dupnica) municipalities (ACR+, Sfantu Gheorge, Mihai Viteazu, Dupnitsa, Mezdra, Trivalis), the German Institute for Standardisation (DIN), an EPR scheme (Ecofolio), the European paper sector organisation (CEPI), and an eNGO (EEB). They represent a clear balance along the value chain.

What is the objective of the project?

IMPACTPapeRec aims to further increase the separate collection of Paper for Recycling (PfR) and promote appropriate schemes to avoid landfilling and incineration.

The main objective is to put Europe at the forefront of PfR collection by providing an innovative and common knowledge platform, which will enable present and future cooperation. Analysis on best practices in PfR collection and assessment procedures are delivered, considering specific local conditions. They will encourage reliable decisions and make solutions available to decision makers, e.g. local authorities ensuring the procurement and supply of PfR in Europe through the improvement of municipal paper collection.

IMPACTPapeRec wants to act as the common European information point for PfR collection for the European industry, by pooling and disseminating information and bringing together stakeholders from the value chain to exchange results, findings and experiences. In order to improve the development and promotion of best practices in paper collection there is a need for common evaluation and benchmarking methodologies.

Which countries does it focus on?

The project focuses on countries with below average paper recycling rates such as Bulgaria, Poland and Romania as well as countries where paper from households, small shops and offices is often collected in a commingled stream with other recyclables as is the case in France and the UK. A best practice handbook will be developed to support the different EU regions in the implementation of best collection procedures.

What is Paper for Recycling?

Paper for Recycling is “used paper and board separately collected and sorted according to the European Standard List of Grades of Paper and Board for Recycling (EN 643).” [European Declaration on Paper Recycling]

Why recycle paper?

Because it makes sense from an economic and ecological standpoint. Paper recycling is perceived by the public as being the most effective way to reduce environmental impacts of using paper. For the industry, recycled fibres are an indispensable source of raw materials, supporting industry’s resource efficiency. For local authorities, collecting separately and recycling paper reduces the amount of waste which has to be incinerated or even landfilled.

How much paper is recycled in the EU?

Europe is the world leader when it comes to recycling paper, 72% of our paper is now recycled. This means that more recycled fibres are being used as  raw material by Europe’s paper producers. In 1992, Paper for Recycling (PfR) made up 35% of raw material, compared to 51% pulpwood. In 2014, 46% of raw material was PfR and 39% was pulpwood.

Why is separate collection preferable?

For many years, the paper industry has done a lot of work to improve the quality of used paper collection. Separate collection increases the quantity and quality of Paper for Recycling, therefore all actors, even households, must recognise that they are handling a secondary raw material and not waste, and accept the responsibilities this implies. Some countries collect old newspapers and magazines from households separately from paper and board packaging. Sometimes all papers are collected together. What is decisive is that paper and board for recycling is collected separately from other recycled materials and, of course, separately from household and non-recyclable waste.

Who collects paper?

Legally, the municipalities have the responsibility to organise the collection of waste and are therefore often the owners of the waste. The paper industry, in order to achieve its recycling goals, cooperates with municipalities, Paper for Recycling collectors, waste managers, publishers and packaging manufacturers. The new Waste Directive obliges member states to set up separate collection of inter alia paper by 2015.

How does the paper recycling chain work?

To ensure the good functioning of recycling, the whole paper chain has to be involved. The consumers need to be informed about their role in closing the paper loop. The municipalities need to have a well-functioning waste management system in place. The waste management companies as well as the merchants of Paper for Recycling (PfR) contribute to raising the quantity and quality of PfR available for recycling. Finally, the material is processed in the paper mill, producing recycled pulp and paper.

Are there limits to the recycling of paper?

A fibre can be recycled several times, yet not indefinitely, depending on the paper grade, therefore there is a continuous need to feed the inflow of Paper for Recycling (PfR) with paper products made of virgin pulp. The share of non-collectable and non-recyclable paper is, for technical reasons, estimated to be 21% of the total paper and board consumption, such as libraries, archives, sanitary paper, etc… Consequently the theoretical maximum collection rate would be 79% instead of 100%. The more one approaches this threshold, the less benefit one can make from it (long transportation, no economies of scale, etc.). Many countries have already reached this threshold. In Europe every paper fibre is recycled 3.5 times.

What is recycled paper used for?

The paper industry is the largest recycler in Europe. Paper for Recycling (PfR) is particularly suited for applications such as newsprint and packaging, but also fine papers can be based on recycled fibres. However, for some “higher quality” publication paper and some packaging applications, for example, only top quality PfR can be used but it is not available in large quantities.

Newsprint is a big user of PfR. Its utilisation rate has reached 95.4% in 2014. Other main users of PfR are:

  • Packaging: 74.4% of the total volumes, especially case materials which alone utilise almost half of the PfR stock (= 23 million tonnes).
  • The utilisation rate for household and sanitary papers is still above 41.4% but has decreased from higher levels in recent years. The main explanation for this is the consumers’ increasing choice for soft hygiene products. Softness is more efficiently reached through utilisation of virgin fibres.

The fresh fibres in magazines and other high grades are needed for renewing the PfR’s wealth. They serve the functioning of the paper loop.

What can I do as a citizen to support recycling?

Actively supporting paper recycling starts with your choice of purchase in a shop. Choose recyclable products and follow the sorting recommendations on the products at home.  You can also contact your municipality who will give you information on the waste management system used in your area and  advice on how to ensure that the paper you use is recycled.

What can a municipality do to increase and improve recycling?

The most important thing a municipality can do in order to increase paper recycling is to provide a separate paper collection scheme to citizens and enterprises. Municipalities can provide citizens and enterprises with valuable information on paper recycling to raise awareness and explain the importance of paper recycling to their citizens.