The paper industry produced less in the 2020 crisis and had to accept a significant drop in sales. “At the moment, it is important to drive within sight and overcome the crisis. However, we were not bystander, we used the time to prepare ourselves as much as possible for the challenges ahead,” says Kurt Meyer, President of Austropapier Industry Association. This means achieving the CO2 targets.
The Austrian paper industry is going through the crisis with a black eye. In 2020, it will produce 4.7 million papers (-5.3 percent compared to 2019) and 2 million tons of pulp (-3.3 percent). Sales decreased to 3.6 billion euros. This is a sharp drop of 14.2 percent after the record year of 2019, when sales crossed the 4 billion mark for the first time.
The result came after the development of the Austrian economy (down 5%) and the European paper industry economy. The crisis exacerbated the shift between individual varieties. While there is still less demand for drawing paper (-13.5 percent), packaging papers registered a further increase of 2.0 percent to reach 2.4 million tons.
Online commerce booming especially due to lockdowns can be seen here. While good cooperation with local forests – particularly when dealing with incidents of spoiled wood – is at the fore when it comes to wood as a raw material, the crisis has had a major impact on the supply of waste paper.
Especially noticed here the suspension of the trade collection due to closed trading during the close. Thus the recycling rate for paper waste is only 69 percent in 2020. In 2021, the industry expects to return to the normal level again to the 2019 level, where the recycling rate is 73 percent.
The investment projects already demonstrate the industry’s focus on the next major challenge: achieving climate goals. Companies are investing in energy efficiency measures, converting energy sources to renewable energy sources, and expanding their product range to include new biological products such as environmental energy, biofuels and biochemicals. The paper industry adheres to European and national climate goals. Our goal is to contribute to CO2 neutrality through our climate-friendly products and processes, ”confirms Max Oberhommer, Austropapier Energy Spokesperson.
The paper industry is an important regional energy resource and already generates 10 percent of Austria’s renewable energy. 60 percent of their energy sources are renewable production residues such as organic eye, bark, or sewage sludge. This means that the paper industry not only supplies its production with environmentally friendly electricity and heating, but also provides energy to the surrounding communities. The energy saved could cover the electricity and heating needs of over 100,000 households. Thus the paper industry has already succeeded in reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 24 percent since 2000.
Raw material wood in particular provides additional possibilities for reducing carbon dioxide. This is why the focus of research is on harnessing the full potential of wood as a raw material. New biological products and materials can replace fossil-based products thus saving carbon dioxide.
Wolfgang Bauer, professor at the Institute of Bio-Products and Paper Technology, is convinced: “The question is not whether our society should develop towards a circular biological economy, but only to what extent we can do it well and sustainably. The successive use of wood will play a major role in this.” .
According to an EU study, there are already 139 bio-plants in Europe, most of which depend on the pulping process. Today they achieve annual sales of 2.7 billion euros and already make up 3 percent of the value added in the European paper industry. Another 28 new projects are slated to be planned in the next few years, and annual sales are set to increase to 5 billion by 2030.
Textile fibers, biofuels, as well as other products in the food and chemical industries provide many possibilities for replacing fossil materials. The search for promising projects is being carried out at his institute of the Graz University of Technology. Batteries that use vanillin from lignin instead of rare earths as a conductive material, or bio-coatings for packaging, making plastic packaging, such as those used in mixtures, outdated.