CPH in the media

Switzerland is running out of waste paper

Blick: The online shopping boom during the pandemic is causing problems for Swiss waste paper recyclers. International competition is leading to a shortage of raw materials and skyrocketing prices.

As paper is in short supply and demand has been unabated for months, the waste paper out on the street is worth a mint currently. Producers are paying up to three times more for the raw material than at the beginning of the year. The reason: the paper cycle is out of balance due to the massively changed purchasing behavior of the Swiss population during the Covid-19 crisis.

Europe-wide lockdowns have led to an online shopping boom, resulting in vast demand for cardboard boxes. Europe's largest paper mills are buying large quantities of raw materials to meet the high demand for cardboard.

Dried up waste paper market
The consequence: more and more waste paper ends up in the production of cardboard. The paper manufacturers, on the other hand, lose out—they do not have enough recovered paper. Paper can be turned into cardboard, but not the other way around. "This way, the paper is lost for the cycle of graphic waste paper," says Alain Probst (55), managing director of Switzerland's largest waste paper disposal company. "Such a tense situation is unprecedented in the last 20 to 30 years."

Probst is also part of Perlen Papier's management board—Switzerland's last producer of newsprint—where he is responsible for the supply of raw materials. In this function, too, the shortage of recovered paper worries him. Production has been cut back.

What is more, fewer advertising materials were printed and the volume of newspapers decreased, leading to a 40-percent drop in waste paper at the beginning of the year. To date, this shortfall has not been fully made up. Nevertheless, Switzerland is still exporting waste paper abroad. "This forces us to import waste paper from Europe, which is completely nonsensical from an ecological point of view," says Probst.

The industry agrees that the situation will only ease once the paper cycle is closed again. In many regions of Europe, though, the pandemic has interrupted or slowed down the collection systems to date. Consequently, too much waste paper is still being burned rather than recycled.

Read the full article in Blick here (in German).