Paper industry: Stronger demand for paper, but trembling about gas

The paper industry will experience a significant upswing in 2021, but this will be dampened by high costs for raw materials and energy. The Ukraine crisis is causing the industry to worry about gas supplies, which is making decarbonisation and renewable energies all the more important. Bioeconomy is the industry's vision for the future.

Trend goes upwards
After the Corona-related slump in 2020, demand for paper will increase again in 2021. Accordingly, total production rises again above 5 million tonnes (+7.3% compared to 2020), while pulp production remains stable at 2 million tonnes (- 0.9% compared to 2020). This benefits graphic papers in particular, which increase by 14 % with a production of 2.2 million tonnes. The continuing trend towards online shopping and environmentally friendly packaging is noticeable with an increase of 2.1 % in packaging papers. With a production of 2.5 million tonnes, they now rank first among the paper grades. Speciality papers, which include sanitary papers, also increase by 6.7 % to 325,000 tonnes. The increased demand boosts the industry's turnover by 15.2 % to over 4 billion euros. However, with a downer, because according to Austropapier President Kurt Maier "The economic upswing last year was dampened by higher costs for raw materials and energy". Energy accounts for 20% of the total costs of a paper mill, making the industry one of the most energy-intensive sectors. In 2021, it already had to dig deeper into its pockets for gas, electricity and CO2 certificates, and the prices of waste paper and pulp also rose significantly. With the Ukraine war, the energy situation has worsened to such an extent that the first companies had to shut down their production at short notice. 

Thetrembling for gas
Although the paper industry is a pioneer in green energy production with a share of 60% of renewable energy, it is still dependent on gas for 35% of its energy. Austropapier President Maier explains this as follows: "Gas is a bridging technology that will be with us for some time to come. However, we are continuously investing in climate protection measures in order to achieve the climate targets". In the event of a gas embargo, production could no longer continue, according to Maier. Packaging for food and medicine, but also sanitary paper, would no longer be available within a short time. Deliveries of district heating and electricity, with which the paper industry currently supplies more than 100,000 households, could also no longer take place. The paper industry is therefore calling for increased promotion of decarbonisation measures and unbureaucratic approval procedures to successively reduce the demand for gas.

Goal in the future: decarbonisation and bioeconomy
"Decarbonisation is not a question of obs, but of when. We are on the right track as a paper industry and stand by the climate targets," Max Oberhumer, energy spokesman for Austropapier, is convinced. Despite production growth of 7.3%, the paper industry was able to stabilise itsCO2 emissions in 2021. A large part of the investments in the paper mills serves the goal ofCO2 savings; in 2021 they amounted to 218 million euros. The industry's goal is bioeconomy, a form of economy based on renewable raw materials and using them as sustainably as possible. The focus must be on the optimal use of all wood components. "The raw material wood offers many possibilities to replace fossil products. We are working intensively to make the bioeconomy a reality," says Max Oberhumer optimistically.

About Austropapier
The Association of the Austrian Paper Industry is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It was founded in 1872 by 20 paper mills, managed the reconstruction after the Second World War, founded its own training centre, where still today the foremen are trained and is part of the cooperation platform forestry-wood-paper. Today it represents the interests of 23 member companies and is the common voice vis-à-vis politics, the media and other stakeholders. In particular, it advocates the correct, but above all resource-conserving use of wood as a valuable material, with the overarching goal of decarbonisation and the transformation of the economic system to a bioeconomy.

You can watch the press conference here:


Further inquiries

Julia Löwenstein
Austropapier Public Relations
Tel: +43 650 6201079

Patrick Mader
Austropapier Public Relations
Tel: +43 699 17686014

Relevant articles

sigrid eckhardt martin zahlbruckner handshake c austro paper
Climate protection

Change at the top of the paper industry

Since mid-May, the Association of the Austrian Paper Industry has a new Managing Director in Sigrid Eckhardt, and Martin Zahlbruckner succeeds Kurt Maier as President of Austropapier.

Press releases

Paper industry demands real relief on energy costs

Austria's paper industry is enormously affected by the exorbitant energy prices. Despite a high share of renewable energy sources, many companies are dependent on gas. Projects are underway at all mills to become less dependent on fossil fuels. In the short term, however, the industry needs rapid relief to maintain production.