Money from trash – why your raddi has become precious

Subramani Ra Mancombu |BL Chennai Bureau | Updated on: Mar 12, 2022
Karnataka : Bengaluru : 17-03-2016 : A view of a waste paper mart where old papers are collected and sent for recycling.
Photo : Sudhakara Jain.

Karnataka : Bengaluru : 17-03-2016 : A view of a waste paper mart where old papers are collected and sent for recycling. Photo : Sudhakara Jain. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

Old newspapers are retailing for as much as 20 per kg in some markets.

A homemaker in Anna Nagar West in Chennai was delighted to get ₹17 a kg for old newspapers from her  raddiwalla. When she expressed surprise over the increase in the price, the vendor told her: “It is enough if I get ₹3 kg as profit.”

In suburban Porur,  kirana shops buy old newspapers at ₹15 a kg, while there are a few who offer ₹20 a kg.  

“Prices of old newspapers have increased to ₹15-22 a kg in the last few months,” says an agent dealing with old newspapers in Mumbai. 

They fetch ₹23 in Bengaluru, ₹20 in Ahmedabad, ₹17 in Kochi, ₹12 in Hyderabad, ₹12-14 in Kolkata and around ₹12 in Delhi. 

The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the reasons for the spike in old newspapers, but there are other factors such as the price of imported waste cuttings surging to $400 a tonne and high freight rates. 

A Kolkata-based analyst says with the availability of fibre becoming an issue for the paper industry, old newspapers have become precious. “Over the last few months, prices of waste newspapers offered to kraft paper manufacturers have increased from ₹20 to ₹28 a kg,” says the analyst.  

Old newspapers and used cardboard boxes are recycled to produce kraft paper. During the pandemic, many subscribers stopped buying newspapers. Besides, with schools, offices and educational institutions closed, the usage of paper decreased, thus affecting the availability of waste paper for recycling. This has been the case worldwide.

Deepak Mittal, President, Federation of Paper Traders Association of India, said supply of old newsprint has dropped 35 per cent as its collection declined due to the Covid pandemic.

This has led to prices soaring to $400 a tonne currently from below $100 before the pandemic set in. 

On the other hand, China banned import of wastes, including paper from January 1, 2021. This resulted in Chinese firms setting up mills in the US to produce kraft paper to be used as fibre back home. This has also, in a way, affected the availability of waste paper.

Besides, a recent ban on the export of waste paper by the European Union has compounded the issue. Some mills use pulp produced from wood but its prices have doubled to $900 a tonne. 

Freight rates have shot up from around $1,600-1,800 for a 40 feet container to $3,600 currently, exacerbating the issue further. And to top it all, kraft paper is being exported to China.

“Kraft paper exported to China means it will remain there forever. It will further deprive us of raw materials such as used cardboard boxes,” says the analyst, pointing out that India has become a net exporter of paper, excluding newsprint.

 (with inputs from BL bureaus)

Published on March 12, 2022

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