If something is illustrating the current shortage in paper it is the rising costs of recovered paper. The chart shows German recovered paper prices – indexed for 2015 as 100%. China, once the main destination of recovered paper closed their borders for most waste materials in 2018 – which includes most recovered paper. This sent recovered paper prices into a tailspin. The bottom was reached during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, when everything came to a standstill, at about 20% of the 2015 prices.
Since 2021 prices kept on rising steadily – which in hindsight should have been a warning. Since March 2021 prices remained at a record level for at least the last 10 years. I would have wished to attribute this to a rising environmental consciousness level, however quite simply the paper industry is needing all fibres they can get. Mill stoppages due to insufficient raw material supply are already happening and paper is getting pricey and scarce.
There are surely other factors playing into the price as well, as: rising logistics costs, other countries importing recovered paper, a general upturn in the economy, less paper in the system due to lower consumption in 2020, … Yet, this increase in recovered paper prices is mostly a sign of paper companies reducing their fibre and mill capacity too quickly after the Covid-19 drop and now not coping with the rebounding demand for paper. After a low 2020 print volume numbers this poses a great danger for stifling the recovery of the print industry in 2021.