WASTE PAPER FOR PULPING Assocarta pronounces itself against the export of raw material and demands the application of the Principle of Proximity. Italy’s energy balance woes.

«Over 50% of the world’s waste paper for pulping is conveyed to the Asian market, first and foremost to China (McKinsey data), while Italian papermills are deprived of a raw material that is needed to make more than half the paper produced in a year (9.1 million tons in 2011 of which 55.2% obtained from waste paper pulp)», denounces Assocarta by word of their general director Massimo Medugno, during a recent conference organized at Pescara by Regione Abruzzo and Legambiente.

The complaint does not stop here: «Italy is a good collector and potentially a big user of waste paper pulp, third in Europe after Germany and France. Though a part of the used material collected is destined for export, drawn on by the strong demand for materials from emerging countries, the relatively low transport costs, with weak environmental regulations on top of the low quality of materials collected locally and lax customs controls».

A good principle – A tool to combat the phenomenon exists: it is called Principle of Proximity, it is laid down by art. 181 of Legislative Decree 205/2010 that adopted the Waste Directive, and introduces a system of monitoring exports in line with the EC decisions and directives on the Recycling Society. Assocarta demands the activation of the same, in line with the 70 proposals for developing the Green Economy (specifically with article 24) presented by the Italian Minister for the Environment Cini at the inauguration of the recent Ecomondo, Rimini. This is motivated by the fact that the reuse of waste paper pulp in Italy would lead to environmental and economic benefits for the entire country that can be quantified in various ways: with municipal collection alone, in Italy from 1999 to 2011 250 landfills were avoided (25 in 2011 alone) with an overall gain estimated at 4 billion euros; if in turn one considers C02 production, the transport of 25 t of waste paper from Spain to China (minimum distance 14.893 km) generates from 5 to 7 tons of emissions (Itene Study).

Neither is the export of waste paper the only threat to the energy balance of Italian companies. New tax burdens are about to be introduced to finance the Italian national thermal system: «900 million euros a year, to be added to the heavy tax burdens established in October 2012 to support renewable sources, and the burdens associated with CO2 emissions and the backloading» Medugno sums up.

Overall, according to Assocarta estimates the situation of the Italian paper industry can be summed up as follows: «In 2011 Italian papermills produced 9.1 million tons of paper and board using 2.4 billion cubic metres of natural gas and 6.5 billion kwh, more than half of which in cogeneration, with significant reductions of C02 (-1,3 milion t/year).

The energy efficiency of the paper industry – stimulated by the portion of energy costs on overall production costs, that reaches peaks of 355 – over the last 15 years has reduced consumption by 20% per product unit. And it can continue to improve: «With the energy recovery of recycling residue alone Italy requires 90,000 less barrels of petrol a year, a deposit that is truly worth tapping».