Capitalizing on long-term paper trends: Cepi points toward positive future despite production falls
20 Feb 2023 --- The European paper industry must capitalize on positive long-term trends, which the EU Green Deal Industrial Plan could accelerate, according to the Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi), which last week released preliminary statistics showing the impact of high energy prices and “eroding EU and global economic growth.”
Cepi member countries’ paper and board production decreased by 5.9% in 2022 compared to the previous year. Total production in 2022 reached 84.8 million tons, with a decrease reported in almost all paper and board grades, except for household and sanitary grades.
At the same time, the consumption of paper remained stable despite the EU’s economic slowdown, with its GDP growing by 0.3% in the third quarter of 2022 and stagnating during the last quarter of 2022.
“Long-term trends for our industry show that we can be ambitious about our future. Now we need the EU Green Deal Industrial Plan to be equally ambitious,” says Jori Ringman, director general Cepi.
“We are confident that a transition toward a greener economy is, in the long term an opportunity for the European paper industry.”
Paper production fall down
The weakness of the paper production recorded during the second part of the year is, to a major extent, explained by Europe’s high energy and raw material costs, which have led to temporary machine stops, says Cepi.
“The slowing EU economic engine in the second half of 2022 and the paper industry’s openness to global markets, where growth is also stalling, have also contributed to this downward shift and the temporary drop off in competitiveness,” the confederation said in a statement.
The use of paper for recycling decreased by 6.4% compared to 2021 and remained steady over a three-year period. Cepi says this points toward a more stable future.
High electricity and gas prices have significantly affected paper mills, which depend on paper recycling. This impacted the outcome in 2022.
Anti-plastic sentiment, driven by a demand for fossil fuel-based alternatives, remains one of the sector’s main drivers for growth. Innova Market Insights tagged “Fiber-based Frenzy” as a top trend in 2021, noting that many companies are shifting toward paper and cardboard as an alternative to plastics as regulation tightens.
“While paper packaging production in Europe decreased by 4.6% in 2022 compared to 2021, the output of packaging paper still remains well above pre-COVID-19 levels,” according to Cepi.
The figures, calculated per ton of paper produced, also do not take into account notable advances realized in reducing the weight of individual paper packaging solutions.
In continuation from the past three years, new consumption patterns following the COVID-19 pandemic have also resulted in a growing demand for sanitary and household grades – gaining 3.6% compared to 2021.
Edited by Louis Gore-Langton
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