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Overview on U.S. Paper Capacity

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Overview on U.S. Paper Capacity

Article excerpt

Two years ahead of schedule, industry looks to recover half of all paper by 2000; newsprint capacity diminishes, recycling grows

WHILE GROWTH IN papermaking capacity remained below historic norms, the push to supply and use recycled paper products "blew right through the recession" in 1993, said American Forest & Paper Association economics and materials vice president Richard Storat.

For yet another year, the AF&PA's survey of capacity expansion in the U.S. pulp and paper industry emphasized the growing contribution of paper recovery and reuse. The industry as a whole weathered its third consecutive year of below-normal capacity expansion.

Through 1996, AF&PA president Red Cavaney said, "capacity is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 1.9%,... considerably below the previous 10-year average of 2.3%." During the same period, the average annual growth rate of domestic wood pulp capacity was put at only 0.6%.

Nevertheless, Cavaney said, the association projects a 6.8% annual rate of domestic recycling capacity growth during the same three years. Between 1993 and 1996, recovered fiber used to make new paper and paperboard is expected to exceed one-third of total fiber use, Storat said.

Assuming full use of capacity, the average annual rate of increase for recovered fiber use during that period is expected to be almost double the growth rate for use of all fiber.

Approximately 80% of recovered paper is recycled to domestic paper and paperboard mills, Storat said.

From 1988 to 1995, the industry will have invested $7.5 billion to add to its recycling of recovered papers. Last year, it used 47% more recovered paper than in 1988.

As a result, it had achieved by last year its 1995 goal of 40% paper recovery and has set a new goal of 50% by the year 2000.

Papermakers' efforts enabled them "to divert or recover for recycling more material from the municipal solid waste stream than all other industries combined," Cavaney said.

Compared with seven years ago, when the amount of recovered paper was but half the amount put in landfills, he said, the United States now recovers more paper than it sends to landfills.

In a separate statement, Cavaney said the ratio will reverse when 50% recovery is achieved: about twice as much paper and paperboard will be recovered as will be buried.

While Storat noted that post-consumer contribution to recovered papers soon will increase to 97%, Cavaney said expenses involved in separately recording and accounting for pre- and post-consumer wastepapers only make recycling costly.

Similarly on the policy front, Cavaney said, the industry opposes legislation that would define recycled paper by a standard regarding the amount of recycled fiber or its source.

He said prescribed levels ultimately would work against efforts to recycle as much as possible by discouraging production among those who would or could only include percentages of recycled fiber insufficient to permit use of the term recycled on their products.

Cavaney also expressed opposition to any state or federal legislation that would allow control of the nature of the content of papers purchased by anyone outside government. He added that the industry should not be put in a long-term position in which a premium price is put on recycled-content paper.

Reaching the 50% recovery-reuse goal in six years, Cavaney warned, depends on a public-private partnership in which the public sector recognizes "the wisdom of a market-driven approach to recovery and recycling" that rejects restrictions on access to used fiber or the amounts used in various paper grades. …

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