Recycling industry faces critical shortages of waste paper in South Africa
On average, 1.2 million tonnes of waste paper are recovered in South Africa annually, of which more than 90% are locally recycled into new paper, packaging, and tissue. The South African paper recycling industry is facing a critical shortage of various grades of waste paper, particularly pre-consumer (K3) and post-consumer (K4) brown/kraft cardboard.
The Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa (Pamsa) believes this trend will continue, putting further pressure on domestic paper mills in the run-up to annual year-end shutdowns. “The K3 and K4 paper grades are used in the production of paper packaging such as corrugated cases for the export market and transit of domestic goods,” explains Pamsa’s executive director Jane Molony. On average, 1.2 million tonnes of waste paper are recovered in South Africa annually, of which more than 90% are locally recycled into new paper, packaging and tissue.
“With offices and schools remaining closed or on rotation during 2020 and early 2021, there was less paper to collect,” said Molony. She said there is a rising demand for paper packaging as more consumers turn to online shopping and a more environmentally responsible form of packaging. Along with disruptions to major international shipping routes, the continued reduction in stock levels is driven by a significant appreciation in export prices of waste paper. As a result, waste paper traders are favouring the export market.
Exporters of locally recovered waste paper supply largely foreign buyers. “Some of these buyers exceed the size of the combined South African paper industry, and can afford to pay significantly higher prices for waste paper than our local manufacturers,” said Molony. Pamsa‘s members have invested billions of rands into the recycling value chain and are the primary source of demand for recovered waste paper. The industry employs around 16,300 people while also supporting a thriving network of informal waste collectors and small recycling enterprises.
Molony has appealed to all businesses and households to separate their paper and paper packaging from general waste. “You can leave the items in a box or bag next to your bin for your local informal recycling collectors.” Used office paper, cereal boxes, brown cardboard boxes, milk and juice cartons and even egg boxes are just some of the paper items that collectors will take to buy-back centres.