WRAP Study Identifies Growth for Recycled Paper

Findings of a study by WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme) exploring the opportunities for recycled paper fibre in moulded paper pulp (MPP) products have identified the potential for considerable market growth.

The study found that a strong but niche market currently exists; however, if technical and perception barriers could be addressed, considerable market growth could be achieved.

The objectives of the study, carried out by PendlePace on behalf of WRAP, were:

  • to identify the current and potential markets for MPP;
  • to assess the opportunities to increase utilisation of recovered fibre; and
  • to identify the best available technology for the manufacture of MPP.

The UK is currently one of the highest per capita consumers of MPP in Europe utilising between 45,000 and 55,000 tonnes per annum (tpa). The largest uses in the UK fall into four categories: egg packaging (28,000tpa), medical applications (8,000tpa), industrial uses (8,600tpa) and food/fruit packaging (4,200tpa).

In the current market climate, the study projects an overall market sector growth of two per cent per year over the next five years, which will bring the UK’s total MPP consumption to 60,000 tonnes. The white goods and industrial sectors were identified as having the highest potential growth rate (six to ten per cent per year).

A range of technical barriers were identified during the course of the study which are limiting the potential growth rates of this resource efficient and sustainable packaging medium. These include technological weakness of product design, the energy inefficient de-watering involved in the production process, and market perception of moulded pulp. If these barriers are overcome, then considerable market growth could be achieved.

Conclusions from the study identify four key issues as the most important for the short to medium term development and evolution of the UK MPP industry:

  • the formation of a UK (or European) moulded pulp trade association to promote market/product development and provide technical resource for the MPP industry;
  • the implementation of successful case studies to demonstrate the benefits of MPP, and to raise product awareness across the packaging market;
  • the achievement of significant energy efficiency improvements and improved wet-pressing techniques; and
  • the transition to a post-consumer recovered-fibre based industry.

David Powlson, Paper Technical Manager at WRAP, said:

“With reviews of Europe, US and China, we believe this report is the most comprehensive study of the moulded pulp market undertaken. Based on existing technology, market growth predictions are modest, but if technical advancements can be made then the growth potential for this inherently environmental packaging is considerable.”

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