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Paper merchant bemoans UK industry

A paper merchant has suggested the UK paper market could be "dead and buried" with materials going abroad and British mills either unable or unwilling to compete with prices offered by countries such as China.

Russell Biggs, owner of Reclo Reclamation which collects 150 tonnes a week, said: "The UK prices have altered very little in ten years, which shows that while prices for most other industries have increased steadily, the market is depressed. The only way you can make money is to increase the amount of paper you are collecting."

With Chinese companies offering £20-a-tonne more in price and giving the luxury of filling as many containers as possible, Mr. Biggs deals mainly abroad.

"I still deal with one or two UK mills, out of respect more than anything, as I have dealt with them for 20 years. And if the Chinese market dries up, I don't want to have to go crawling back to companies."

Biggs has watched the market change. There was a time when everything went to Taiwan, and India he suggests may become more of a player in future.
But he is sceptical. With companies looking for the lowest price, maybe China will take trade from Europe to the USA. However, overall he believes it is a bad way to deal with materials.

"It seems crazy that we are sending our paper and cardboard all the way to China only for it to come back as packaging on goods we are buying. It would surely make more economic sense to feed a power station rather than sending it around the world."

He believes the UK companies show no commitment to compete, which suggests to Russell that they don't need the material because the industry is so slow. But things aren't all doom and gloom.

"At least you can get rid of it now. The bad old days when we were practically begging have gone."

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