Virgin fibre is a part of the circular economy

Photo: Skogsindustrierna Cirkulär ekonomi, kretslopp

The circular economy is at the top of many agendas right now, including the EU's. Wood fibre is a renewable raw material that is part of the carbon cycle, starting with photosynthesis. It doesn't get more circular than that.

The issue of circular economy is on the EU agenda these days in that the directives for waste, packaging and landfill are currently being revised. Here, the forest industry's stakeholder input is that virgin fibre and recycled fibre must be viewed by legislators as two equivalent raw materials, both of which have a given place in the circular economy. Wood fibre can be recycled up to seven times, after which it reaches end-of-life and is transformed into bioenergy. In essence, the Nordic countries are behind the supply of virgin fibre in the EU, while the other countries in continental Europe re-use our fibre.

The European Parliament has taken a positive stance to promoting bio-based packaging, a move that we naturally welcome. However, if we want the bioeconomy to grow, the recycling targets for packaging run the risk of being far too high. Consideration must be given to the fact that our country is sparsely populated, with long transportation distances to factories that can use the material and make new products. For paper and carton board packaging, recycling is already high today in Sweden and scaling it up to the proposed 90 percent is unrealistic. In the case of wood packaging, the proposed targets of between 60 and 80 percent will be even harder to achieve since we have an overly small fibre board industry in Sweden lacking the capacity to handle the material. Instead, end-of-life wood packaging has the potential to deliver great benefits as bio-energy after having been recycled many times.
At the bottom of the page you will find the Swedish Forestry Industry Federation's position regarding the changes currently under negotiation in the EU right now in the EU Waste Framework Directive and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Producer responsibility

In the context of the circular economy, a relevant question is which system is best suited for collection for recycling. This question is on the table for discussion both in Sweden and the EU. The Swedish Forest Industries Federation advocates retaining producer responsibility in Sweden, since we believe that if you are responsible for the cost of recycling, you should also have the option to control the design of the system.