Spain recycles 78% of consumed paper, with 71% local collections and remainder coming from France, Portugal; 62% of paper on market is FSC or PEFC certified, or both; industry has reduced CO2 emissions by 25% since 2011, NOx by 52%, SOx by 86%: ASPAPEL

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Spain , January 19, 2022 (press release) –

Decarbonization of the process promoting biomass and biogas as fuel, ecogeneration with green hydrogen and integration of renewable electricity generation facilities

  • CO2 emissions have been reduced by 25% compared to 2011, NOx by 52% and SOx by 86%
  • Local and renewable raw materials: 97% of the wood and 71% of the paper for recycling are of local origin and the rest from other EU countries
  • Certified products that are massively recycled: 62% of the paper is already certified and 78% of the paper consumed is recycled   

The Paper Sustainability Report published by ASPAPEL —in the words of the president of the association, Elisabet Alier— "reflects the paper sector's commitment to the circular economy and decarbonization, a path marked by achievements and opportunities such as the use of raw materials local, renewable and carbon neutral; the very high recycling rates, or having managed to decouple carbon emissions from the growth of production, as well as the growing process of substitution of materials that paper is the protagonist of as an alternative to non-renewable and non-biodegradable products”.
In its sixth triennial edition, the Paper Sustainability Report is structured around the four strategic lines of action of the sector: sustainable forest management, efficient and responsible production process, generation of wealth and contribution to quality of life and leadership in recovery and recycling. In this new edition, the focus has been broadened, with the collaboration of organizations and companies from the different links in the value chain, to collect the main sustainability trends in their respective fields.

Biomass accounts for 34% of the total fuels used by the sector
Biomass generated in the manufacture of cellulose and paper (bark, lignin, fiber residues no longer suitable for recycling...) is increasingly used as fuel in the plants themselves. The paper sector is today the largest industrial producer and consumer of biomass in our country. Biomass currently accounts for 34% of all fuels used.
Natural gas (64% of the total) is the fundamental fuel in cogeneration in the sector at the moment and is also used in auxiliary boilers for heat generation.
Installed power of 876 MW of cogeneration
The pulp and paper industry is electrointensive and heat intensive: it needs electricity to move the machinery and heat to dry the pulp and paper. The sector produces most of the thermal and electrical energy it needs in cogeneration plants located next to its factories, with an installed capacity of 876 MW.
Cogeneration produces both electricity and useful heat in the form of steam, optimizing the use of fuel, thus saving primary energy (a saving of more than 10%) and reducing emissions.
In this decade, cogeneration with hydrogen could be a reality
Throughout this decade, cogeneration with hydrogen could be a reality. Progress is being made in the development of engines and turbines suitable for hydrogen consumption, so that the future of ecogeneration will be mainly conditioned to the development of green hydrogen generation and the adaptation of the natural gas transportation and distribution networks now existing.
In the strategic investment plan for the next three years of the Spanish paper industry, recently presented as a proposal for a Tractor Project for Industrial Competitiveness and Sustainability, within the framework of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, includes projects aimed at replacing gas and fossil fuels for renewable fuels and green hydrogen in cogeneration (ecogeneration), the incorporation of biogas and green hydrogen as fuels with zero net impact to cover the demand for thermal energy in the production of pulp and paper and the integration of generation facilities of electricity from renewable sources (photovoltaic, biomass, renewable waste, etc.).

CO2 emissions have been reduced by 25% compared to 2011 and those of SOx and NOx by 86% and 52%.
Energy efficiency measures, the use of biomass as fuel (neutral in carbon emissions, according to the criteria established in the GHG Trade Directive) and cogeneration are currently the three pillars of the sector's strategy in Spain in terms of reduction of emissions.
Total CO 2 emissions have been reduced by 25% compared to 2011 and those of SOx and NOx by 86% and 52%, respectively.
The Spanish factories in the sector are part of the ETS (Emissions Trading System) of the European Union. Therefore their emissions have to be covered with carbon credits received by free allocation or purchased. The current scheme is a disincentive for a fundamental energy efficiency technology in the sector such as cogeneration, since emission rights are not assigned to the part corresponding to the generation of electricity.
The bicircularity of paper
The bicircularity of paper combines the natural circularity that derives from the renewable nature of the raw material, wood for paper grown on local plantations, with the social circularity of the massive recycling of paper products.
Wood from local plantations 97%
For the production of pulp for paper, 5.3 million m 3 of wood are used in Spain. 97% of this wood comes from local pine and eucalyptus plantations and the remaining 3% from plantations in other European Union countries.
62% of the paper placed on the market is FSC and/or PEFC certified.
In addition, a high and growing percentage of wood is certified for sustainable forest management (FSC and/or PEFC): the certified wood consumed by the sector amounts to 61%. The entire supply of wood for the sector is controlled, as it comes only from the European Union.
100% of the pulp mills and pulp suppliers, 92% of the sector's wood suppliers and 62% of the paper mills are certified. And as far as products are concerned, 60% of the cellulose consumed by the sector and 62% of the paper placed on the market are certified.
47 million tons of CO 2 equivalent fixed in wood plantations used for paper
The 480,122 hectares of wood plantations used for paper in Spain are large CO 2 sinks that, with 47 million tons of CO 2 equivalent fixed, help mitigate climate change.
Wood-for-paper plantations: mMore than 21,000 jobs that fix the population in empty Spain.
Faced with the increasing depopulation and aging of the rural world, local wood plantations for paper are an engine for creating employment and wealth.
As far as employment is concerned, the 480,122 hectares of wood plantations used for paper provide 5,083 direct jobs in repopulation and forestry tasks and 15,935 indirect jobs in machinery, transport, workshops... More than 21,000 jobs that set the population in empty Spain .
And as for the creation of wealth, we must highlight the important contribution of these plantations to the income of small forest owners and municipalities and to the public coffers for the associated taxes.
We recycle 78% of the paper we consume
Spanish paper mills annually recycle 5.1 million tons of used paper. The recycling rate (paper that is recycled as raw material in paper mills over the total consumption of paper and cardboard) stands at 78%.
Second largest recyclers of paper and cardboard in the EU after Germany
The Spanish model of single-material municipal selective collection, based on the blue container and reinforced with complementary systematized collections in small businesses, schools, offices... is a successful model and a benchmark in Europe. This is possible thanks to the concurrence of three factors: a highly efficient collection system, with the involvement of local councils and the massive collaboration of citizens, an important recovery sector and a paper industry with a great recycling capacity (the second recycler in Europe after Germany) that guarantees the recycling of all the paper collected in Spain in accordance with European quality standards.
71% of the paper recycled by Spanish bins is collected locally and the rest comes from France and Portugal
A distinctive sign of the Spanish paper industry is the use of local raw materials. As far as paper for recycling is concerned, 71% of the used paper recycled by paper mills located in Spain is collected in our country and the rest comes mainly from France and Portugal.
In Spain we collect 4.4 million tons of paper and cardboard for recycling. This collection volume is equivalent to 44 large football stadiums filled to the brim with paper and cardboard.
Qualified and growing
employment Direct employment in the sector in 2020 remains the same with respect to the previous year at 16,637 direct employees. Since 2017, employment has increased by 2.2%. This is qualified and stable employment with 90% permanent contracts.

ASPAPEL Press Office (Spanish Association of Pulp, Paper and Cardboard Manufacturers):

Information and Image | Paseo de la Castellana, 140 |609904877 915616826
Contact persons: Ángeles Álvarez| Email:
Eva de Santos | Email:

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