CEPI warns of the ‘end of paper recycling’

end of paper recycling

The Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) formed a barricade outside of the European Commission (EC) headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, in protest of its proposals to change the End-of-Waste (EoW) criteria for paper, which CEPI says could ‘end paper recycling’.

Paper reprocessors are specifically concerned that the proposals will see quality standards set by paper collectors and sorters, rather than the mills themselves; they fear losing control of an essential raw material if unrecycled paper and packaging is declared ‘end-of-waste and recycled’ at the processing stage.

Criteria proposals 

The proposed criteria outlines that recovered paper shall cease to be waste where, ‘upon transfer from the producer to another holder, all of the following conditions are fulfilled’: 

  1. The paper resulting from the recovery operation shall be graded according to European standard EN 643; not contain hazardous properties or materials; not contain any visible traces of contaminants such as paint and food; and have no more than 1.5 per cent of its ‘dry air weight’ consist of non-paper content; 
  2. The waste used as input for the recovery operation shall have been segregated at source or while collecting (or the input wastes shall have been treated to separate the paper from the non-paper components); all treatments needed to prepare the paper for direct input to pulping in the manufacture of paper products, such as sorting, separating, cleaning, or grading, and except de-baling, shall have been completed; and any non-paper components shall have undergone a dedicated treatment process;
  3. Providing the waste used as input for the recovery operation has been treated in accordance with the criteria set out above, the producer or importer shall transmit the statement of conformity to the next holder of the recovered paper consignment;
  4. The producer or the importer shall retain a copy of the statement of conformity for at least one year after its date of issue and shall make it available to competent authorities upon request;
  5. The recovered paper is destined for the use of paper fibres for paper manufacturing. In addition, the non-paper materials in consignments of multi-material paper are destined for recovery. 

Criteria threatens ‘high levels of paper recycling’ 

CEPI has argued that the criteria will change the EoW point from its current location, at the paper mill, to an earlier stage, the collection of the paper. CEPI has said that this will make recycled paper ‘unusable without further processing’, and have an ‘adverse impact on making Europe a resource-efficient recycling society’. 

According to the paper confederation, if the proposals are accepted, the amount of impurities in the output of end-of-waste would be 15,000 times higher than they are at this moment. In addition, CEPI warned that used paper that has deemed to no longer be ‘waste’ and is shipped to countries outside of Europe, would no longer be subject to equivalent environmental standards (the Waste Shipment Regulation), despite being heavily contaminated. 

Speaking of the proposals, Jori Ringman, CEPI Recycling and Environment Director, said: “With this proposal, the European Commission will be exporting pollution to the poor and importing unemployment to Europe. It all works against the idea of the EU becoming a resource-efficient recycling society as well as against the reindustrialisation of Europe.” 

To highlight the problem, CEPI formed a barricade outside the EC building – the Berlaymont – with seven bales of paper, which under the proposals could be labelled as ‘recycled’. Ringman and other members of CEPI stood outside the building until the early evening, challenging “anyone to use [the ‘recycled paper’] in their printer or to draft a legislative proposal on it”. 

CEPI is calling on the commission to demonstrate what the environmental benefit of changing the EoW criteria is, to allay fears that the new legislation poses a threat to ‘current high levels of paper recycling’.

In the UK, the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) has said it 'supports' CEPI’s position and in August CPI Director General, David Workman, wrote to Resources Minister Lord de Mauley,  to urge him to 'use his influence to reject the current commission proposal and work towards EoW criteria that guarantees that the quality standards required by the reprocessor (i.e. the paper mills) are met'. 

Over 70 per cent of paper consumed was recycled in 2012

Earlier this year, it was announced that in 2012, 71.7 per cent of paper consumed in Europe was recycled, and CEPI has warned the commission that the new proposals could ‘threaten Europe’s ability to maintain its recycling rates for paper, let alone improve them’. 

The regulation for the end-of-waste criteria for is currently being prepared in ‘comitology’: before the criteria is adopted, the European Parliament will have to give its opinion, after which the commission can decide to proceed with the legislation as is, or rework it. If the regulation is accepted, it shall apply from 1 January 2014.

Read the European Commission’s proposal on the end-of-waste criteria for paper.