South Africa’s paper recovery stood at 68.5% with 1.2 million tonnes of recyclable paper products diverted from landfill during 2019, according to Anele Sololo, general manager of RecyclePaperZA, the paper recycling association of South Africa. Among the most recycled paper-based items in 2019 were cardboard boxes at 71%, while office paper recovery and beverage cartons sat at 16% and 10% respectively.

“Although the paper recovery rate was slightly down on 2018, the same tonnage was diverted from landfill,” Sololo said in a statement, adding that percentage drop could also be attributed to companies holding stocks of paper products and paper for recycling or waste traders awaiting better export opportunities. There was also an increase in export sales of packaged agricultural and non-agricultural products in 2019, which meant that less packaging – around 280 000 tonnes – was available for domestic recovery and recycling, according to RecyclePaperZA.

Lockdown effects
: The association added that the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown and a slowed economy have resulted in reduced availability of used white paper, newspapers and cardboard boxes. “Contrary to late last year, when the market was in a cycle of oversupply, we are now experiencing reduced supply and increased demand for paper fiber,” Sololo noted. She added that with fewer physical newspapers in circulation during lockdown, there was less of this grade available for use in moulded fiber products. “Sadly, we have also seen a number of magazine titles closing down,” Sololo said, adding that now as the economy is opening up, the sector hopes that the supply-demand ratio will even out, in particular in the e-commerce market.