At a time when conserving and growing forests 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. In the list that follows below, many specific examples of the virgin fibre pulp capacity expansion underway to supply this boom are highlighted. Supplying a growing volume of virgin pulp threatens forest areas worldwide with degradation, deforestation and loss of intact forest, especially in the global South. And, in too many cases, it also threatens additional forms of environmental damage and labor and human rights abuses.
There are many causes behind the virgin pulp boom. One of the most significant is China’s new, high standard for purity in imported mixed, recycled paper, which went into effect in 2018 and which closed off the top importer of recovered materials 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 or in other countries snapping up that recovered material? Why is recovered paper being sent to landfills and incinerators, further threatening communities? 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 and what that means 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 toward paper, and 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, with a complete list available at the Environmental Paper Network project, Mapping the Expansion of the Paper Industry:
Indonesian paper giant Asia Pulp and Paper agreed with the local government of Andhra Pradesh, India, to build a paper mill with a capacity of 5 million tonnes pulp and paper. In 2018 a new national forest policy opened up to the expansion of industrial pulp plantations in India. The new mill will likely 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 local communities and natural forests, but in the past, Asia Pulp and Paper expanded in Indonesia at the cost of 2 million ha 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.
Malaysian tissue company NTPM Holdings Bhd will expand its manufacturing facilities in Vietnam and Penang, Malaysia this year. The expansion would increase the group’s total production capacity to 170,000 tonnes 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,” Possible impacts on Deforestation Fronts and Intact Forest Landscapes.
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.
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 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 too.
Chung Hwa Pulp is upgrading its facility in Taiwan and expanding production by an unknown
An undisclosed company from Thailand is negotiating a deal of about 100,000 hectares in Mozambique to grow trees for paper production. This is alongside of the already troubled Portucel mill, a project that is stalled after creating a large number of social conflicts through massive land-grabbing for plantation fiber.
China Harbour Engineering Company signed a protocol with the Gabonese government to build a pulp & paper company in l’Ogooué-Maritime, near Port-Gentil. No more information has been made available.
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 the mills 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
Sibirskiy Les (Sibles) plans the start of a pulp mill in 2022 in Krasnoyarskiy Krai, Russia, with a capacity of 930,000 tonnes per year and a fiber sourcing area that could impact the Siberian Intact Forest Landscapes.
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.
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.
Burgo Ardennes is going to expand its pulp production capacity by 380,000 tonne per year at its plant in Virton, Belgium.
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 fires, spreading alongside the eucalyptus plantations. Expanding virgin fibre production could drive a further expansion of such plantations, with consequence on fire occurrence.
Mondi is proceeding with the investment in a new 300,000 tonne per annum kraft top white machine at Ruzomberok (Slovakia), with start-up expected towards the end of 2020.
Resolute announced 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.
After taking over the Brazilian company Lwarcel, the Indonesian company APRIL plan an expansion of pulp production. 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.
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 the flooding, worsened by deforestation.
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.