Europe nears 74 percent paper recycling goal

Europe nears 74 percent paper recycling goal

While recycling levels increased, paper consumption in Europe has declined to 82 million metric tons.

February 13, 2018
Edited by Dan Sandoval
Europe Paper

The European Paper Recycling Council (EPRC) has reported that Europe’s 2016 paper recycling rate increased to 72.5 percent, a 0.9 percent increase from the prior year. The 2016 figures pushed the EPRC closer to its 2020 paper recycling goal of 74 percent by 2020.

Relative to 2015, the collection of paper for recycling reached 59.5 million tons. In parallel, paper consumption slightly decreased, totaling 82.1 million metric tons. In its report, the EPRC indicates Europe is nearing its maximum paper recycling potential, since 22 percent of the paper used can neither be collected or recycled, by its estimate.

At the same time, changing consumption patterns on the continent are affecting most recycled paper products. Newspaper consumption continued to decline in 2016. Increased consumption of corrugated boxes, the other most recycled paper product, is only partly compensating for the challenge to the overall recycling rate of declining graphic (printing and writing) paper consumption.

On a country-by-country basis, 2016 also featured positive achievements, according to EPRC. The number of European countries with a recycling rate less than 60 percent has declined to nine, while 17 European countries now have recycling rates exceeding 70 percent, an increase of three, since 2015.

“We continue to make progress in elevating Europe’s recycling rate, but we must not remain complacent,” says Ulrich Leberle, secretary of the EPRC and raw materials director at the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI). “A renewed focus on separate collection of paper for recycling is even more crucial to ensuring that Europe remains a global leader in paper recycling. This is even truer as quality issues have become more apparent in other regions over the past year,” he adds.

“The monitoring report is an example of the value chain’s commitment to review and meet its promises,” says Lisa Kretschmann, chair of the EPRC. “This year’s findings demonstrate that we are both serious about our product’s eco-design and ensuring collected paper re-enters the paper recycling loop.”

The EPRC was established as a paper industry self-initiative in November 2000 to monitor its progress towards meeting the paper recycling targets set out in the 2000 European Declaration on Paper Recycling. The commitments in the declaration are renewed every five years.

Last year, EPRC committed itself to meeting and maintaining both a voluntary recycling rate target of 74 percent in the EU27 plus Switzerland and Norway by 2020 as well as quality-related targets in areas such as waste prevention, eco-design and research and development.

The full EPRC report can be found via this download.

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