The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the decline in the production of newsprint and other graphic grades in Europe, but in contrast packaging grades have jumped in demand.
The trends are revealed in provisional figures for 2020 released by Cepi, the European organisation which represents the Europe’s paper industry, as well as the UK. The numbers show that overall use of paper products slumped by 6% in 2019 and demand for newsprint crashed by 20.5%.
In its report for 2020, released last week, Cepi says that even with the slowing down of the European economy and the “sanitary” restrictions imposed because of Covid-19, most mills ran without disruptions, “even if some operated at reduced speed because of lower levels of demand”.
According to preliminary figures, the demand for packaging paper and board – especially materials used for transport packaging and corrugated boxes – continued to grow in 2020, as they benefited from the e-commerce boom related to the pandemic, Cepi reported.
The production of packaging grades is estimated to have increased by 2.1% compared to 2019. Cepi said the grades are “essential to transport and deliver supplies, such as medicines or food. The output of carton board plus other packaging board – mainly used for retail packaging – and the production of wrapping grades – used for paper bag production – remained unchanged”.
And, despite the tissue sector being hit hard by a lack of demand from the away from home market, overall tissue and hygiene products production was up by 1.9%.
“The European pulp and paper industry’s priority in 2020 has been to ensure that EU citizens can access the products they need for hygiene, health and food purposes,” said Jori Ringman, Cepi director general.
He continued: “We have been relentlessly working with other industries along the value chain to guarantee security of supply to citizens. Our industry data now shows that crisis and the periodical lockdowns have accelerated consumption pattern changes and will have a long-lasting impact on markets.”
Overall paper and board consumption was impacted by the economic downturn in Europe and decreased by 6.6%. The European GDP declined by 7.4% in 2020, after +1.6% in 2019. Cepi member countries’ paper and board production decreased by 5.0% in 2020, compared to the previous year, mainly due to Covid-19 pandemic impacting global demand.
Referencing newsprint and other graphic grades, Cepi said that the grades were facing a structural decline. “The overall production of graphic grades fell by more than 18.0%. Newsprint and printing and writing papers decreased by 20.5% and 18.4% respectively.
“Demand from publishers, offices and commercial printing has declined dramatically. Permanent mill closures or machines conversions have been announced, to adjust to the situation.”
The use of paper for recycling by paper companies in the European area decreased by 2.1% compared to the 2019 level. The pandemic impacted the availability and quality of paper for recycling throughout 2020, the Cepi study reported. It added that 96% of European paper for recycling utilisation is supplied domestically and exports went down by 8.4%.
Confederation of European Paper Industries: Cepi