The announcement comes only days after plans were unveiled for the rebuilding of another paper machine in Germany and both developments will mean there is more newsprint being made from recovered fibre.
Both development comes at a sensitive time as the owners of Aylesford Newsprint, Kent are involved in high-level talks with the government about building a new machine here. And, should Aylesford decide to go-ahead, its machine coupled to the continental developments could put pressure on other UK recovered newsprint mills.
Stora Enso announced yesterday that it is to build a 400,000 tonnes per year newsprint paper machine utilising recovered paper as raw material in Langerbrugge, Belgium. At the same time it will shut down permanently two paper machines with combined capacity of about 230,000 tonnes per year in Langerbrugge (SC paper) and Summa, Finland (newsprint).
Aylesford currently has a capacity just under the production level of the proposed Stora Enso plant at 390,000 tonnes.
Stora Enso says that the new mill is in accordance with its strategy to develop its company structure and it is continuing its “asset improvement programme to increase its competitiveness in the newsprint and magazine paper businesses”.
Aylesford is currently in talks with the UK government about the possibility of receiving a grant towards constructing a new paper machine at its Kent site. Environment minister Michael Meacher said in December that an announcement could be made in “the short future”.
Donald Charlesworth, Aylesford Newsprint company secretary, said that he could not comment on whether the Stora Enso plant would influence the company’s plans. However, he pointed out that: “The UK currently imports two out of every three reels of newsprint it uses and is landfilling 1.7 million tonnes of newspapers and magazines.
“The newsprint market is still expanding and there would still seem to be an opportunity to support the UK market. This is a matter for our investors and as far as Aylesford is concerned, there is no decision at this stage regarding any prospective project.”
David Symmers, director of the Independent Waste Paper Processors Association, said he still hoped that there would be mill expansion in the UK. “Although the merchant industry welcomes any mill development, it would prefer mill development in the UK. I think for the movement of news and pams that any new capacity is preferable in the UK.”