Figures, from the Confederation of Paper Industries, showed that in 2008 about 8.8 million tonnes of recovered paper were either recycled in the UK (45 per cent, 3.99mt) or exported for recycling (55 per cent, 4.85mt).
CPI recovered paper sector manager Peter Seggie said: “2008 was another difficult year for the domestic paper industry, but exports continued to rise to accommodate excess material as it became available on the market.
“It was a real rollercoaster of a year with significant growth seen over the first half of the year (6.1 per cent, 262,000 tonnes) followed by declining numbers for the later months as collection slowed (in the second half -2.6 per cent, -111,000 tonnes compared to the same periods in 2007).
“This was influenced by falling consumption of paper and board products in the UK and over the later part of the year by falling demand from the Far East and domestic mills as they adjusted their stock levels.”
He forecast that 2009 would be “a difficult year” as waste paper generation falls in line with the recession leading to a significant “quality squeeze”.
“Smaller volumes will be available for collection from already secured sources and if tonnage levels are to be maintained, more sources will be required. This will have a significant knock-on effect for cost and quality control for collectors and may be made more difficult if demand from global paper mills falls further suppressing collectors income,” he said.
* CPI figures are based on UK paper mill raw material usage and HM Revenue and Customs trade data.