The domestic paper industry is in a quandary over the surge in import of waste paper. .

It wants the government to discourage import of contaminated paper and come out with policy framework and regulations.

Environmental concerns

Regulatory changes in China, which limit use of imported waste paper, are behind the rise in imports, harming various sector players that have created a healthy circular economy.

“The surge in import of contaminated waste paper poses a serious environmental threat to India and undermines the pioneering work done by Indian paper makers in promoting sustainable manufacturing practices,” said Sanjay Singh, Divisional Chief Executive, Paperboards and Specialty Papers, ITC Ltd.

“India has been witnessing an unprecedented rise in dumping of hazardous waste paper due to a ban on these materials in China. This has also disincentivised the segregation and recycling of solid waste in India, leading to loss of livelihood across the waste management value chain,” he said.

Singh, who also heads the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII)-Telangana, said, “It is imperative for India, therefore, to impose a ban on such harmful imports and encourage Indian paper makers to implement innovative and eco-friendly models of recycling and manufacturing, thus creating and retaining value within India. Such measures would also ensure a significant reduction in contaminated waste paper going to landfills, while protecting precious livelihood in a circular economy.”

‘Impose ban’

The industry wants the government to take a close look at the trends and consider imposing a ban on the import of mixed and unsorted waste paper into India. It also wants the regulatory standards tightened, particularly on the allowable categories.

There is also demand for extension of infrastructure support to all NGOs and agencies committed to a cleaner environment and the use of recycled fibres.

Barely 25% used

According to the India Agro & Recycled Paper Mills Association, the country recycles 25-30 per cent of the paper consumed and a large chunk is not collected. In the developed world, 80-85 per cent of the waste paper is recycled. In India, a large volume of consumed paper goes into landfills.

As per estimates, there has been an eight-fold jump in mixed waste paper imports in the first half of 2018-19 from about 19,000 tonnes per month to about 1.5 lakh tonnes.

Apart from saving more than $180 million in mixed waste imports, the curbs will help generate new employment and create a circular economy.