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White Papers

China’s Recovered Paper Problem

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White Paper

By Tedd Powers, Senior Consultant, Fisher International

It is no secret that China has a recovered paper problem. Actually, China has two different but related paper problems. First, let’s define some terms. There is a huge difference between recovered paper and waste paper. Recovered paper (RCP) is a valuable source of fiber used in the production of more than one-half of the world’s paper and paperboard. Waste paper is garbage. Literally, garbage. It has no value and gets burned or sent to a landfill. Herein lays China’s first problem. We estimate that China sends about 25 million tonnes of waste paper to landfills.

By 2025, that number will be at least 40 million tonnes with some estimates as high as 65 million tonnes. The World Bank estimates that China will race past the United States as the planet’s largest producer of municipal solid waste (MSW), as shown in Figure 1. But this waste paper problem is only part of China’s broader issue with the vast amount of MSW it generates.

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