As China's waste paper imports slow, its disruption of global pulp & paper sector accelerates

Photo: H0005/Wikimedia Commons

Since 2017, China's crackdown on waste paper imports has reconfigured the global pulp, paper and board industry – and there's more disruption to come. From the Americas and Europe to India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, every market has been affected. The Global Impact of China's Recovered Paper Import Regulations, a new study from Fastmarkets RISI, confirms that industry dynamics will keep shifting over the next decade.

"By stopping the flow of unsorted waste paper into its ports, China launched a tidal wave of change throughout the world's fiber, paper, and board markets," said Hannah Zhao, Fastmarkets RISI Senior Economist for Global Recovered Paper and lead author of the new study. "Every region's response has, in turn, affected other markets as well," Zhao said.

"Now Indonesia is also looking to crack down on waste paper imports, even as its industry is using that fiber to boost production," explained Zhao. "And China's powerful pulp and paper industry is buying and building capacity in the US and other nations to circumvent domestic supply issues."

"In the US and Europe, domestic producers will use more waste paper, as risk on both the import and export sides increases," said Zhao. "As for China, its producers' shift towards domestic RCP and recycled pulp has raised costs," Zhao explained. "This is a shift that could affect trade balances worldwide."