Research Report on China’s Waste Paper Import, 2018-2022

With the development of China’s economy, the consumption of paper and paperboards has continued to increase, which has promoted the production. China has become the world’s largest producer of paper and paperboards for many years. In 2017, the production volume of paper and paperboards reached 125.42 million tons with an increase of 3.1% YOY. The CAGR was up to 4.9% from 2007 to 2017.

According to CRI’s analysis, waste pulp is the most important raw material for the papermaking industry and plays a crucial role. The demand for waste pulp in the Chinese market is rising, but the recycling volume and the paper quality cannot meet the needs of the industry. Thus, every year China needs to import large amounts of waste paper. Now it is the world’s largest importer of waste paper, with the import volume more than 60% in the global trade.

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When importing waste paper, enterprises must apply for import quotas from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and be allowed to import only after the approval. In 2017, a total of 28.1076 million tons of waste paper import quota were approved. Due to illegal activities permits of some companies were withdrawn. In 2017, the import volume of waste paper reached 25.72 million tons, decreasing by 9.8% YOY. The import value amounted to USD 21.22 billion, with an increase of 22.8% YOY. The average price of imported waste paper in 2017 reached USD 824.9/ton, increasing by 36.1% YOY.

In 2017, China’s largest sources of imported waste paper were the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada. The import volume is closely related to international trade disputes. In the case of disputes with other countries, China Customs would make more restrictive measures to reduce the import volume.

According to CRI’s analysis, the Chinese government has enforced stricter regulations on the import of waste paper to promote the standardized development of the waste paper industry chain. From Mar. 1, 2018, Regulations on the Environmental Protection of Imported Waste Paper was implemented, which stipulated that the production capacity of enterprises applying for import permits must reach 50,000 tons/year, and that the impurity rate of waste paper was adjusted from 1.5% to 0.5%. The import quota for waste paper officially approved is preferentially given to leading enterprises. For example, the three companies of Nine Dragons Paper Co., Ltd., Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Limited and Shanying Paper account for more than 50% of the total quota, while some small and medium-sized companies cannot even obtain quotas. With the better quality of imported waste paper at lower prices, the large-scale papermaking enterprises will grow more competitive and the industrial concentration is expected to increase.

According to the CRI, over 30% of the waste paper needed by China’s papermaking industry come from the overseas. Affected by the new regulations, the total amount of imported waste paper in 2018 will be 10% to 20% lower than that in 2017. With the falling import volume and stricter standards, the price of waste paper in the Chinese market may further increase, hence driving up the price of paper and paperboards.

CRI expects that the paper and paperboard output will continue to increase from 2018 to 2022, and the demand for waste paper will also rise. Since the domestic waste paper cannot meet the demand of the papermaking industry, the only solution is to increase the imports. From 2019, the import volume of waste paper will see a rise.

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