Waste paper is a sustainable and sought-after raw material for high-quality paper products. Austria is one of the countries with the highest rates of waste paper collection. Nevertheless, the demand for waste paper exceeds the supply at home.
The Austrian paper industry processed 2.6 million tonnes of recovered paper annually. (2020)
In 2020, Austrians collected 1.3 million tonnes of waste paper.
Because more waste paper is processed than collected, waste paper has to be imported. The import share was 60 % in 2020.
With a recycling rate of 77.6%, Austria is one of the world's top performers.
Besides pulp (wood fibres or "primary fibres"), waste paper ("secondary fibres") is the second major source of raw material for paper production. The collection of used paper products has been established in Austria for decades and thrives on a high collection morale and well-functioning collection systems. Recycling and reuse then takes place in the paper mills, which dissolve the waste paper, remove impurities and excessively short fibres and process the recovered material into new paper. Rejects, sludges and other residual materials that arise during the processing are used to produce energy.
Recycling at the highest level
Almost 58.7 million tonnes of paper are collected and recycled in Europe. This corresponds to a recycling rate of 72% (2019). In Austria, around 1.5 million tonnes of waste paper are collected each year, which corresponds to a recycling rate of 77.6% (2019). The industry uses a total of 2.6 million tonnes of waste paper for the production of new paper products, which is considerably more than can be collected domestically. A large quantity must therefore be imported, namely 1.5 million tonnes. On the other hand, trading companies export 300,000 tonnes of recovered paper. An increase in the recycling rate to over 80 % is hardly possible any more for reasons of technical feasibility. The limiting fractions in paper recycling are mainly heavily soiled or coated papers, such as hygiene products, greasy paper or wallpaper, and of course also products made of paper that are stored for a long time, such as books or important documents.
EU targets already achieved
With its circular economy package, the EU has set legally binding recycling quotas for packaging throughout Europe. These are 75% by 2025 and 85% by 2030 for paper and cardboard packaging. The pan-European recycling rate for paper and folding box packaging has already reached a new record level of 85.5% this year. This means that the European target for paper and cardboard has already been reached. In Austria, the recycling rate in 2019, which, however, refers to the total amount of waste paper collected (i.e. not only packaging but also print products etc.), is already at 77.6 %.
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