Extending the limits of paper recycling - improvements along the paper value chain

A. Blanco, R. Miranda, M.C. Monte


Aim of study: The purpose of this study is to analyze how paper recycling activities in Europe can be extended through different improvements along the paper value chain. The importance of this study lies in the identification of the present barriers in paper recycling and how they can be overcome.

Area of study: Europe.

Material and Methods: All the main stages along the paper value chain have been analyzed for possible improvements: collection of recovered paper (availability and quality), sorting of recovered paper, paper production, and printing and converting activities.

Main results: To increase paper recycling in Europe the following improvements are necessary. First, it is mandatory to increase the availability of recovered paper through more efficient collection systems (avoiding the use of commingled collection systems) and limiting the competition with energy purposes and the exports. Second, it is necessary to extend sorting activities, which can be achieved by reducing sorting costs by the use of automatized sorting systems. Third, there is a need to increase the recyclability of paper products by the commitment of printing and converting industries to use recycling-friendly printing inks and adhesives. Finally, environmental awareness of the citizens is still an important driver for increasing recycling activities, affecting not only recovery but to all the stages along the paper recycling chain.

Research highlights: Although the recycling rate in Europe is already very high (68.9%), there is still room to further extend paper recycling activities through different improvements along the paper value chain.

Keywords: paper recycling; sustainability; paper value chain; recovered paper; environmental awareness.

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DOI: 10.5424/fs/2013223-03677

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