CPI calls for growth in UK’s paper production

A call for growth in the UK’s papermaking industry rather than importing paper comes today from the sector trade association, the Confederation of Paper Industries.

Most UK papermakers use recovered paper as their feedstock

Highlighting how paper as a sustainable product is seeing growing demand, the Confederation argues specifically that the UK is importing too much paper for printing and writing and instead should build more paper mills to produce the material.

In its third Economic Value Report, the CPI states: “For sectors such as printings and writings, where competition from digital media has led to a reduction in demand, the level of imports is such that there are good opportunities for UK growth to satisfy a greater proportion of UK demand.”


And, it adds that “Across all sectors therefore, there is a very significant opportunity for increases in production to displace material that is currently imported and drive growth in UK manufacturing.”

An increase in production would be expected to have an impact on boosting domestic use of waste paper collected for recycling. The CPI says that around 80% of UK-made paper utilises recovered paper (waste paper) “which is by far the biggest source of recyclate from domestic waste streams. The UK Paper and Board Industry currently recycles around 3 million tonnes of recovered paper (used paper) annually. In 2020, around 6.6 million tonnes of used paper and card were recovered in the UK for recycling, of which 3.8 million tonnes were exported to overseas markets.”

Recovered paper is a huge input for UK mills


Supporting the rationale for UK growth, the Confederation points to the rise in demand for paper products during the pandemic. It notes: “Paper and board are inherently renewable, recyclable, and therefore sustainable materials. The pandemic has shown the importance of corrugated packaging with more people requiring packaged goods than ever before, with countless deliveries during lockdown. Recovered paper is globally traded and in the UK, the recycling of paper is a national success story stretching back over 100 years from when cotton rags were picked for papermaking.

“The biggest market driver for this growth comes from demand for sustainable packaging materials (such as corrugated cardboard with its excellent environmental performance and convenience, as demonstrated by the dependence upon the material for increased deliveries during lockdown) and increased demand for hygiene products, even post-pandemic, as we become ever more hygiene conscious in the pursuit of keeping the virus under control.”


And, the CPI emphasised that recycling of waste paper is an “intrinsic part” of the paper loop. “Paper recycling is not a knee-jerk response to environmental pressure. It is an integral part of the UK Paper Industry and it has its own sophisticated infrastructure.”

Also highlighted by the Confederation are the high costs of energy for UK papermakers compared to those faced on the Continent and the desire of the sector to support moves to decarbonise. However, CPI director general, Andrew Large, warned that there should be no move to decarbonise by simply offshoring industry.

Andrew Large, director general of the CPI, is seeking UK growth for the paper sector

Mr Large said: “CPI strongly agrees with the views expressed by Chris Stark, CEO of the Committee on Climate Change. We say ‘NO’ to deindustrialisation as a means for the UK to decarbonise. As this report shows, a great proportion of jobs in the UK’s paper-based industries are outside of London. Retaining these jobs and ensuring their long-term sustainability is vital to the levelling up agenda.

“The UK should work to keep these manufacturing jobs here rather than outsourcing industrial activity to high-emission countries around the world. The UK is already the world’s largest net importer of paper and rather than importing more, from countries less committed to decarbonisation than ourselves, we should be striving to increase UK production, where we can decarbonise as quickly as possible.”

Related links
The CPI’s Economic Value Report (opens as PDF)
Confederation of Paper Industries

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