Up to 220 sorting plants for paper and cardboard waste will be commissioned in Europe by 2025, according to research.
In a report, consultancy Ecoprog said the growth would be based on expanding separate waste collections and renewal of existing plants.
It estimated that the amount of paper and cardboard from municipal solid waste available for sorting will increase by around 4.6 million tonnes a year to 48 million tonnes a year by 2025. The UK is one of the countries with the most potential for market development, with standardisation and optimisation of its household collection system, the report noted.
The report, The Market for Waste Paper Sorting in Europe, says that Europe will need additional sorting capacity totalling 6.7 million tonnes by 2025. This already accounts for the fact that UK plants will sort all waste streams from dry recyclable bins.
It predicts that 2.1 million tonnes of sorting capacities will be modernised or replaced until 2025. This translates to about 160 new plants and 60 replacement or modernised projects.
Ecoprog said that Europe has more than 2,000 sorting plants processing paper and cardboard, although the number of facilities sorting only paper and cardboard was around 380.
Ecoprog predicted that sorting paper and cardboard waste will increase in importance by 2025, with the amount of material that can go to recovery growing as the separate collection systems are expanded and optimised, catching waste paper that is currently going to landfill.
The report said that most of the plants in the UK and France sort waste from the dry recyclables bin. Around 450, with an average capacity of 60,000 tonnes a year, sort waste paper, lightweight packaging and sometimes glass.
Processing mixed waste streams requires more complex sorting technology and higher investments, which will pay off only with large throughputs. In such plants, paper and cardboard waste accounts for about 50% of their overall input, Ecoprog says.
Around 1,200 facilities in Europe sort other dry waste streams as well as paper and cardboard. These plants have comparatively simple sorting technology for paper and cardboard waste, which allows them to profitably sort smaller amounts of waste.
Ecoprog concludes that ways of using waste paper and more thorough sorting will become more important following Chinese import restrictions.