The Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa collates data from the South African pulp and paper sector to draw up an annual summary of paper manufacturing and paper recycling statistics.
The pulp and paper sector is a vital contributor to South Africa’s economy and society. From toilet tissue and cereal boxes in the home to boxes for export oranges, paper is essential in every facet of life. Along with forestry, the sector also provides an environmental service. Produced from sustainably farmed trees, paper is a renewable resource and can be recycled into new paper and tissue products. Like the wood from which it is made, paper stores carbon, even when it is recycled, which is why it is the environmentally sensible choice for packaging and communication. The relationship between paper consumption and economic growth has been observed for a long time. While printing and writing grades continue to give up volumes to electronic media, packaging and tissue grades are showing resilience and even growth in an economy facing numerous pressures.
South Africa consumed 2.344 million tonnes of paper, paper packaging and tissue in 2018, up 4% on 2017’s consumption but down slightly from 2016’s 2.381 million tonnes. This is good news for a sector that has faced a decline in printing and writing grades. Demand for more renewable and recyclable packaging materials is expected to have a positive influence on the sector going forward.
The 2018 paper recovery rate is 71.7%. This represents 1.285 million tonnes of the 1.793 million tonnes available for recovery*. Domestic consumption of recovered paper went up by around 5% from 830 000 tonnes in 2017 to 873 000 tonnes in 2018. This indicated that there was more recyclable material in the market for collection. A lag between production, consumption, collections and eventual reprocessing into new product means that actual recycling rates can be difficult to pin down. Note that the quantum of beneficiated fibre is affected by the recyclable fibre leaving the country as packaging for exported primary products (agricultural products and other manufactured goods). Over the past few years, this has steadily increased to 158 202 tonnes of net box exports. This, plus the 163 101 tonnes of waste paper exported, is deducted from the recovered paper to get the 964 038 tonnes beneficiated by paper manufacturers.
*Recoverable paper excludes paper which is unrecoverable or unsuitable for recycling. For example, toilet tissue and sanitary products, cigarette paper and archive material.