Italian paper industry

A sector which invests 5.9% of the annual turnover. Circularity rate of 57%.


Italy, in 2018, confirms its position as the 4th paper manufacturer in Europe, with more than 9 million tons, of which 57% are produced (circularity rate, i.e. the ratio between secondary raw material and paper production) using recycled paper; in the packaging sector, however, the figure is as high as 80%, reaching the new recycling goal of the Community Directive, still to be implemented. Moreover paper is the most collected fraction among urban waste and gives a fundamental contribution to waste management and the Circular Economy in the country.

«Paper is an example of circular bio-economy because it is renewable and recyclable, but also the expression of a culture which leads our entrepreneurs to investing 5.9% of the turnover domestically, with a positive environmental and social impact for our country», said the president of Assocarta (the trade organisation grouping and working on behalf of the Italian Paper Industry representing pulp, paper and board manufacturing companies in Italy) Girolamo Marchiopening the Annual Meeting of the Association in June. «It is unbelievable that Italy should still be the second manufacturing country in Europe, and its investments are actually at a standstill. Concrete Circular Economy projects are held hostage by relentless amount of red tape. Not only is it impossible to recover waste for recycling, but not even to increase paper recycling. We are not drowning in quicksand, but in slow-sand».

A sector which has been able to contain the effects of the crisis

A sector which in the past has been able to contain the effects of the crisis and is trying to build relaunch strategies is now faced with two hindrances to competitiveness: higher cost of gas and the lack of recycling installations to manage waste. The paper industry is energy-intensive and uses gas, the best fuel overall, at prices which are 15% higher than those of foreign competitors. According to a survey carried out by the European trade association (Cepi), the first five countries using the largest amount of natural gas in Europe (including Italy) put on the market 70% of recycled paper, and the figure increases to 83% if we extend the survey to the first seven. It is thus fair to say that gas also plays a fundamental role in the circular economy of paper.

The figures of the Italian paper industry

The paper industry ends the year 2018 with a 7.7 billion turnover (+4.2% 2018/2017) and 9.1 million production (+0.1%). A positive trend was shown by packaging and special papers, stable in the case paper for hygiene and toilet use. The domestic share destined to foreign markets dropped from 44.7% (2017, all-time high), to 42,7%, with a similar trend for all types, except for the export of paper for hygiene and toilet use (+3.1%).

In the first three months of 2019 production (-2%) and turnover (-2.2%) have dropped compared to the good levels for the same period in 2018. Graphic papers have gone down; hygiene and toilet paper remained stable; a growth was recorded for packaging but at a slower level than the previous year. Over the past few months the prices of cellulose have gone down: using as reference 2016 with its 650 dollars, there has been a shift from 1050 in November (+400 dollars) to 930 in April this year (+280 dollars above the 2016 values). The level remains high, despite this reduction.

Improving the competitive setting for Italian paper manufacturers

«We are asking the Government to intervene to reduce this ‘spread’ and act on the para-fiscal components which are gradually increasing. At European and domestic level it is urgent to reset  the price gap between Italy and Europe, both through the final launch of the reduction mechanism of para-fiscal charges and by extending the connections with Northern Europe (TENP) and the Balkans (TAP)» concludes Marchi.

Just as urgent is the implementation of the principles in the circular economy package, preserving the structure of Government Decree no. 152/2006 as regards sustainability systems for the manufacturer (Conai/Comieco), as well as including concrete measures for the recovery of recycling waste, for example a steering group including Administrations and Ministries in charge, and the obligation to consider the latter in territorial planning as waste which is just the same as urban waste from a technology perspective; the forthcoming launch of an EoW (End of Waste) for paper to improve the current Secondary Raw Material system.

Also at national level attention should be paid to implementing the same measures which some of our main competitor countries have introduced to compensate for indirect costs incurred by companies due to the Carbon Leakage risk in the ETS sector, thus removing a further disadvantage for our companies.