US wastepaper exports fall 4.3% year-over-year in 2012 to 20.1 million tonnes, largely due to massive declines in ONP, pulp substitute exports; China remains No. 1 destination by far, but it imported 0.8% less US wastepaper than in 2011

LOS ANGELES , March 12, 2013 () – Foreign trade in U.S. wastepaper shrank in 2012, with the country exporting 4.3% less of its collected recovered paper than it did in 2011, according to the latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC).

The problem does not appear to be that more U.S. wastepaper was used domestically and thereby unavailable for export because the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) reports that U.S. paper and paperboard mills consumed 3.2% less recovered paper last year than in 2011.

However, a supply situation could be at least partly to blame. With U.S. paper and paperboard production falling by 1.3% year-over-year in 2012, there was less paper in the pipeline to recover, based on AF&PA statistics.

While containerboard output rose by 0.6% last year, thereby increasing the potential supply of old corrugated containers (OCC), newsprint production fell by 3.0% and printing and writing paper output was off by 4.6%.

OCC is 67% of total wastepaper recovered in U.S. Of total wastepaper recovered in the U.S. last year, OCC represented 67%, according to the AF&PA. The shares of the other grades are small by comparison, with mixed paper at 12%, high-grade deinking at 9%, old newspapers (ONP) at 8%, and pulp substitutes at 4%.

Among the five grade categories of recovered paper exported from the U.S., the decline was largely caused by sharp reductions in just two grades, ONP and pulp substitutes.

Of the total 20.144 million tonnes of wastepaper exported from the U.S. last year, 9.695 million tonnes was OCC, 4.137 million tonnes was mixed papers, 4.278 million tonnes was ONP, 1.377 million tonnes was pulp substitutes and 656,191 tonnes was high-grade deinking.

ONP exports fell by 13.6% or 672,568 tonnes, while pulp substitute exports were down by 30% or 590,370 tonnes. Mixed paper exports were was off by just 0.4% or 14,720 tonnes. OCC and high-grade deinking exports grew by 3.4% or 314,988 tonnes and 9.4% or 56,130 tonnes, respectively.

In December, AF&PA reported that wastepaper exports were up in the preceding month for all grades except high-grade deinking, with OCC showing strong gains. However, total recovered paper exports were off 6% year-to-date versus the same period in 2011.

Exports account for 47.1% of total U.S. demand.
Despite the decline, exports represented 47.1% of total demand for U.S. wastepaper in December 2012, based on calculations using AF&PA and DOC data.

Like the DOC, AF&PA figures also show recovered paper exports down 4.3% year-over-year in 2012; however, AF&PA puts the volume at 20.128 million tonnes, about 16 million tonnes lower than DOC data show.

U.S. imports of recovered paper gained in 2012, with both AF&PA and the DOC reporting an 8.9% year-over-year jump to over 992,000 tonnes. Canada and Mexico accounted for nearly all of the volume.

China remains by far the largest market for U.S. wastepaper exports. China accounted for 70.6% of the entire world market for U.S. wastepaper exports in 2012. In comparison, second-place India had just a 6.9% share.

The remaining top five markets for U.S. wastepaper exports, in descending order are South Korea, Mexico and Canada. Together the top five markets accounted for 91.5% of the world market for U.S. recovered paper exports in 2012, based on DOC data.

OCC accounted for 48% of all U.S. wastepaper exports. In volume terms, the No. 1 wastepaper grade exported from the U.S. last year was by far OCC, which accounted for 48% of the total. ONP and mixed paper each account for about 21%, followed by pulp substitutes and high-grade deinking, with shares of 7% and 3%, respectively.

China has a big part in each grade category for U.S. wastepaper exports. In the top three categories, China was the destination for 78.2% of all the OCC, 77.9% of all the ONP and 61.7% of all the mixed paper the U.S. exported last year, DOC statistics show.

U.S. wastepaper exports to China dipped by 0.8% year-over-year in 2012, with increases seen for mixed paper and OCC of 10.5% and 4.5%, respectively, while declines of 8.9%, 2.4% and 8% were seen in ONP, pulp substitutes and high-grade deinking, respectively.

China has been the top export destination for U.S. wastepaper exports since 2001, when it bumped Canada for the spot. In 2012, the U.S. shipped 14.2 million tonnes wastepaper to China, up from 3.3 million tonnes in 2001 and just 203,269 tonnes in 1991.

Most  U.S. wastepaper export markets declined in 2012. Among the top 20 markets for U.S. recovered paper exports, very few posted year-over-year increases. The few that did included India, up 1.4%; Indonesia, up 23.1%; Taiwan, up 1.1%; Malaysia, up 22.2%; and Peru, up 7.1%.

Of these markets, only India, Indonesia and Taiwan are among the top 10 destinations for U.S. wastepaper exports. The top ten countries accounted for 95.9% of the world market for recovered paper shipped from the U.S. in 2012. That is up slightly from 95.6% in 2011.

The top five destinations for U.S. OCC exports in 2012, in descending order are China, India, South Korea, Mexico and Canada. Together they account for 92.4% of the world market for U.S. OCC exports, and this is 0.4 percentage points lower than in 2011.

For ONP exports from the U.S., the top five destinations in 2012 were, in descending order, China, South Korea, Canada, Mexico and India. Together these countries accounted for 96.6% of the world market for U.S. ONP exports, up from 95.7% in 2011.

The five countries at the top for U.S. mixed paper exports are China, South Korea, India, Canada and Mexico, in that order. Together they comprise the market for 87.3% of all the mixed paper shipped from the U.S. last year, according to DOC statistics.

U.S. Exports of Recovered Paper



















Change vs


Change vs

Tonnage change



2011 (%)

Jan.-Dec. 2012

2011 (%)








Old Corrugated






Mixed Papers






Old Newspapers






Pulp Substitutes






High Grade Deinking


















Source: U.S. Dept. of Commerce.





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