At a time when forest protection to fight climate change is a clear and critical opportunity, we are seeing plans and investments for quite the opposite. After over two years of stagnation, the virgin pulp industry is booming. The list that follows below, highlights the many specific examples of the virgin fibre pulp capacity expansion underway to supply this boom. Supplying a growing demand of virgin pulp threatens forest areas worldwide with degradation, deforestation and loss of intact forest, especially in the global South. In too many cases, it also threatens additional forms of environmental damage as well as labor and human rights abuses.
There are many causes behind the virgin pulp boom. One of the most significant ones is China’s new, high standard for imported mixed, recycled paper, which went into effect in 2018 and which closed off the top importer of recovered paper for many countries. Recovered paper is now selling for a fraction of the price it was before, so why isn’t the pulp industry in the US and other countries snapping up that recovered material? Why is recovered paper being sent to landfills and incinerators, further threatening the local and often poor communities around those incinerators?
It turns out that everyone from importers to domestic customers now wants the material to be as clean as what China requires. Most recyclers and recycling systems can’t get it there yet. Particularly, U.S. recycling programs have been focused on volume over quality, without thinking of the material as part of a system connected with remanufacturing.
Additional drivers of the virgin pulp boom are population growth, the huge, ongoing growth of e-commerce with big implications for the paper packaging market, rapidly increasing paper consumption in Asia, over-consumption of paper (many times the global per person average) in North America and Europe, bans on damaging single-use plastic which drive the market towards paper, and much more.
These projects below, from all around the world, are recently-announced examples that represent the increasing global pressure on land, water, people and forests. A more complete list is available at the Environmental Paper Network project website, Mapping the Expansion of the Paper Industry.
Indonesian paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) has agreed to build a paper mill with a capacity of 5 million tonnes of pulp and paper with the local government of Andhra Pradesh, India. In 2018 a new national forest policy opened up to the expansion of industrial pulp plantations in India. The new mill will likely have an impact on 50,000 pulpwood farmers. It has not been disclosed yet where the pulpwood plantations will be located and what will be the impacts on the local communities and natural forests. Read more here. In the past, Asia Pulp and Paper is known for having expanded in Indonesia at the cost of 2 million hectares of tropical rainforests and of hundreds of local communities.
Naini Papers Ltd. is building a new pulp line in Kashipur, Uttarakhand, India. The plant will be completed by 2020 and it will produce 100,000 tonnes per year of bleached hardwood kraft pulp. Read more here.
The Malaysian tissue company NTPM Holdings Bhd will expand its manufacturing facilities in Vietnam and in Penang, Malaysia this year. The expansion would increase the group’s total production capacity to 170,000 tonnes of pulp per year from 110,000 tonnes. In Vietnam, the capacity would be increased to 50,000 tonnes from 10,000 tonnes, while in Penang to 120,000 tonnes from 100,000 tonnes. The expansion plans pose a threat to expand the Deforestation Fronts and and to Intact Forest Landscapes. Read more here.
Sun Paper will build a new mill in Laos with a capacity of 400,000 tonnes per year in Muang Phin, Xepon, Savanakhet, with possible impacts on Intact Forest Landscapes and Deforestation Fronts. Read more here and here.
Hong Kong based paper company Lee and Man is planning to build a a pulp and paper mill in Sepang, Malaysia. The plant will be able to churn out 700,000 tons of paper and 550,000 tons of pulp. It is not clear yet where the mill will find enough of wood fibre to feed the mill. Establishment of pulpwood plantations played a key role in massive deforestation in Indonesia (which is within import range of the new mill) and could also expand in Malaysia. Read more here.
Chung Hwa Pulp is upgrading its facility in Taiwan and expanding production by an unknown volume. Read more here.
An undisclosed company from Thailand is negotiating a deal of about 100,000 hectares in Mozambique to grow trees for paper production. Read more here.
This is taking place alongside the already troubled mill by the Portuguese company Portucel, a project that is stalled after creating a large number of social conflicts through massive land-grabbing for plantation fibre.
China Harbour Engineering Company signed a protocol with the Gabonese government to build a pulp & paper company in l’Ogooué-Maritime, near Port-Gentil but no more information has been made available. Read more here.
Sappi Limited will expand production at its Saiccor Mill in Umkomaas, south of Durban in KwaZulu Natal, with the so-called Project Vulindlela. The mill will increase its production from 780,000 tons to 890,000 tons per year, expanding its production of viscose staple fibre (VSF). The mill produces elemental chlorine-free (ECF) dissolving pulp (DWP), mostly for the export market. DWP is sold to converters to manufacture a wide range of consumer products, but is mostly used in clothing and textiles. Read more here.
Sibirskiy Les (Sibles) plans the start of a pulp mill in 2022 in Krasnoyarskiy Krai region in Russian Siberia, with a capacity of 930,000 tonnes per year and a fiber sourcing area that could impact the Siberian Intact Forest Landscapes. Read more here.
Stora Enso is exploring a plan to rebuild its Oulu fine paper mill to produce cartonboard and an undisclosed amount of kraftliner and chemi-thermo-mechanical pulp, with risks of supply from Intact Forest Landscapes. Read more here.
KaiCell Fibers Ltd will increase its bleached pulp from 500,000 – 600,000 tonnes per year for production of textile fiber in the Kainuu region. Read more here.
Burgo Ardennes is going to expand its pulp production capacity by 380,000 tonne per year at its plant in Virton, Belgium. Read more here.
Ence is planning to raise pulp production in the Navia (Asturias) and Pontevedra plants. In recent years Spain and Portugal have been hit by massive forest fires, spreading alongside the eucalyptus plantations. Expanding virgin fibre production could drive a further expansion of such plantations, with consequence on fire occurrence. Read more here.
Mondi is proceeding with the investment in a new 300,000 tonne per year kraft top white machine at Ruzomberok (Slovakia), expected to start running towards the end of 2020. Read more here.
Resolute has announced that it will invest over $52 million in its Saint-Félicien Pulp Mill in Quebec to expand capacity of 15,000 tonnes per year with possible impacts on Intact Forest Landscapes. Read more here.
After taking over the Brazilian company Lwarcel, the Indonesian company APRIL plans an expansion of pulp production in the country. The plant based in in Lençóis Paulista currently produces 250,000 tonnes of eucalyptus pulp, and the R$3.5 billion expansion project under study would add 750,000 tonnes per year to the installed capacity. The Indonesian group would be planning to operate a flexible line, with production of both eucalyptus and soluble pulp. The Asian group’s representatives have been to Mato Grosso do Sul looking for areas and forests available to install a pulp project. Read more here.
Agroforestal Oberá plans to build a facility to produce 500,000 tonnes per year of unbleached kraft pulp and 300,000 tonnes per year of kraftliner. Finnish engineering consulting company Pöyry has completed the pre-feasibility studies. In the past years, the province of Corrientes has been affected by flooding, worsened by deforestation. Read more here.
Sun Paper, under the name Sun Biomaterials, is in the permitting process for a US $1.8 billion virgin fibre pulp and paper mill in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, that will make lightweight and heavyweight linerboard for packaging, using nearly 4 million tonnes of wood per year. Read more here.