Paper Facts

  • Almost any used paper can be recycled, including; newspapers, cardboard packaging, stationery, direct mail, magazines, greeting cards and wrapping paper.

  • Paper can be water-proofed, waxed, glazed, dissolved, moulded, enamelled and bent.

  • As of October 2015, there are 48 paper mills in the UK.

  • Of the fibres used to make paper in the UK, over 70% comes from recovered paper recycled by households and businesses. The rest comes mainly from virgin wood fibre from trees grown in sustainably managed forests.

  • The temperatures in the drying cylinders of a papermaking machine can reach up to 180°C.

  • A typical modern papermaking machine can produce around 400,000 to 500,000 tonnes of paper per year.

  • Speeds of around 2,000 metres per minute can be reached on modern machines.


Business Facts 

  • In 2015, we in the UK consumed a total of 9.1 million tonnes of paper.  In that same year, UK paper mills produced 4.0 million tonnes of paper and board.

  • Of the 8.0 million tonnes of paper and board collected in 2015 in the UK, 3.3 million tonnes was used by UK paper mills to make recycled paper; the balance of 4.9 million tonnes was exported worldwide.

  • The UK Paper-based Industry employs approximately 25,000 direct employees (100,000 including indirect employees) and has a turnover of £6.5 billion

  • Corrugated packaging is space-efficient packaging that is ideal for transportation and is easily recycled.

  • Corrugated packaging substantially reduces the cost of product waste by protecting the product inside from becoming unusable.

  • Advances in technology mean that product packaging can allow us to see if products are past their sell by date by colour changes and using printed electronic circuits (RFID).


Sustainability Facts

  • The recycling rate for paper in 2015 was 68%, making the Paper Industry the UK’s most successful single material recycler.
  • Paper recycling in the UK  is crucial due to the lack of forests (only 12% of the land in the UK is forested).

  • Recycling used paper and cardboard also has carbon benefits – in comparison to landfilling or incinerating the material – with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

  • The Paper Industry is a relatively small user of wood; only around 11% of the wood extracted from the world’s forests is used in paper and pulp production.

  • With responsible forest management, European forests have grown by over 30% since 1950.

  • Paper is natural, biodegradable and recyclable, comes from a renewable resource and is manufactured in a sustainable manner.  Trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, and paper, as a wood product, continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime.  A well managed forest, used and re-planted, absorbs more carbon dioxide than a mature forest consisting of older trees.

  • The Paper Industry produces shelf-ready packaging for supermarkets which can be put back into the recycling loop immediately after use.

  • UK corrugated’s recycling record makes it a highly sustainable packaging material, with over 80% of all used corrugated packaging sent for recycling and, on average, 75% recycled fibres in every UK produced corrugated box.

  • The corrugated packaging recycling infrastructure is so good that fibre can be back on a shelf as a new box in less than 14 days. This excellent recycling rate means that an area of board the size of Greater London avoids going to landfill every four months.

  • Remember though, that paper fibres can only be recycled around 4-7 times as they increasingly degrade in the recycling process, and eventually lose their papermaking qualities. Degraded fibres are replaced with new, virgin fibres, often from recovered paper that has not been previously recycled.

  • Without virgin fibres, from new trees, the paper cycle can neither begin nor continue.

  • The majority of the water used in papermaking is ‘borrowed’ i.e. it is used, cleaned and returned to the environment or recycled in the papermaking process.

  • An increasing number of paper mills use energy efficient Combined Heat and Power (CHP) technology to generate electricity and heat.

  • On average, the amount of electricity required to produce 200kg of paper – the average amount of paper that each of us consumes each year – is equivalent to a typical household leaving its electronic equipment on stand-by for a year.

  • Between 1990 and 2010, the UK papermaking industry reduced energy use by 42% per tonne of paper, and emissions of fossil carbon dioxide by 1.6m tonnes.


Further industry information is available on the CPI website –