Has Recovery and Export Peaked?
04-03-2014

Published American ISRI Recovered Paper Industry data trends showed that waste paper recovery peaked at 65.1% or 78.5 million tonnes in 2007 with export volume and price peaking in August 2011 at 23.3 million short tons prior to weakening in 2012 and 2013. Exports to China in 2013 reduced -7.8% as were to most other countries with the exception of India which grew a modest 2.4%.

From Australia we have experienced a paper consumption reduction since 2003 which may be now levelling off with recovered paper exports possibly peaking the 2012-13 financial year at 1.5 million tonnes and 2013 calendar year at 1.4 million tonnes. The recovery percentage, which although rarely accurate, shows a figure of 76.8%. For a continent the size of Australia this is impressive and realistically a 80-82% maximum recovery may be as good as it gets when only a few European countries are at this level. Four to six percent is still a respectable recovery growth of 204,000 tonnes, but also a very hard and expensive growth without changes in recovery technology, with commercial buildings being designed to separate and remove waste resources as well as a return to household source separation.

New privacy laws will also play a large part in business papers and e-waste destruction. The recent NAID hard drive survey showed 30% of confidential data remained on disc drives and whilst a high percentage of unshreded business papers may be recovered most would contain confidential data and these new privacy laws will shake up the business community over the next year or two.

It will be interesting to see how a weaker A$ will affect consumption and recovery in a stagnant economy during most of 2014. 

Graeme Holland

Managing Director