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Feature: Future exports could exceed all expectations

In only a few years from now, the UK could be exporting as much as six million tonnes of recovered paper per year, it was suggested at last week's Bureau of International Recycling's (BIR) paper round table in Milan.

Maarten Kleiweg de Zwaan, president of the European Recovered Paper Association, and David Symmers of the UK's Independent Waste Paper Processors Association agreed that UK exports were likely to exceed three million tonnes this year - well ahead of the 2.587 million tonnes recorded in 2004.

"And that could double in the next three or four years," Kleiweg de Zwaan told delegates.

Statistics supplied by BIR paper division vice-president Ranjit Baxi, of Wanstead-based J&H Sales Inter-national, showed that UK exports to China amounted to just short of 794,000 tonnes in the first seven months of this year - more than was shipped throughout the whole of 2004. Over the January-July 2005 period, the UK accounted for almost a third of the 2.485 million tonnes of recovered paper dispatched from Europe to China, with only the Netherlands on 676,000 tonnes coming close to matching this country's performance.

Baxi also highlighted the growing importance of India as a consumer of recovered paper. Expansion programmes and new projects announced for the period 2005-08 would add more than 500,000 tonnes per year to the country's recovered paper requirements. Of this total, 240,000 tonnes of new capacity was already "ready to start", he said.

At the same time, Baxi warned delegates of the increasingly strict quality requirements being imposed on importers by the Indian authorities, particularly with regard to unsorted mixed waste shipments.

As recently as late September, the Indian government had underlined tougher measures relating to the "import of banned municipal and other wastes in the guise of recovered paper or paper board". If a container is found to contain a mixture of contaminated garbage/municipal waste or plastic waste, the consignment will not be permitted customs clearance into the country "under any circumstances", and the importer will be compelled to take it back "at their own risk, cost and consequences immediately or latest within a fortnight". Almost all containers are now being inspected. And on a brighter note, Baxi pointed out that the UK's recovered paper export community was already well aware of this issue and was "trying its best to sort this out".

Delivering his UK market report, David Symmers said conditions had been largely stable and that demand was running "a little ahead of supply", thanks mainly to continuing strong export demand from India and south east Asia. However, the rise in fuel prices had brought into question the viability of widening collection activities in many instances.

Symmers also drew the attention of delegates to a recently-issued Defra consultation paper which proposes that all yards are covered and enclosed. Any such move would entail "tremendous" costs of perhaps 1.5m for a merchant handling 500 tonnes a year. The consultation exercise is due to be completed in early December.

The European market overview from Kleiweg de Zwaan also described relatively stable conditions and the virtual disappearance of spot lots during recent weeks. Europe's exports had increased by 48% to 4.9 million tonnes last year, while its recycling rate had reached 54.6%. In the context of the European Declaration on Paper Recovery, he

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