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Fifth edition of the ASPAPEL three-yearly Spanish Paper Sustainability Report: decarbonisation of production processes, locally-sourced renewable raw materials, certified sustainable products that are massively recycled

Fifth edition of the ASPAPEL three-yearly Spanish Paper Sustainability Report

Decarbonisation of production processes, locally-sourced renewable raw materials, certified sustainable products that are massively recycled 






  • Target in 2050 Roadmap: to reduce CO2 emissions by 80%
  • Key tools: fuel mix (33% of fuel used is biomass or biogas compared to 23% a decade ago), cogeneration (Best Available Technology) with 1,086 MW installed capacity, and energy efficiency


  • The Spanish paper sector has a recycling rate of 74%, that’s twelve percentage points above the European average: our paper sector is the third largest recycling industry in Europe in terms of volume.


  • Today, 100% of Spanish pulp mills and pulp suppliers are certified, as are 92% of the sector’s wood suppliers and 75% of its paper mills.
  • The proportion of certified wood consumed by the sector stands at 63% (75% in the case of eucalyptus).
  • At present, 56% of market pulp and 61% of paper sold on the open market is certified.


  • 98% of the wood and 70% of the paper for recycling used by the sector as raw material is locally sourced.

The pulp and paper industry is a circular bioindustry that leads industrial decarbonisation. The paper industry entails a double circularity: the natural circularity of its bio character (manufacture of bioproducts from renewable natural sources), and the social and industrial circularity of recycling (recyclable bioproducts that are massively recycled after use) according to the Paper Sustainability Report published by ASPAPEL.


In its 2050 Roadmap, the Spanish and European pulp and paper industry sets itself the target of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% compared to 2015. This reduction in emissions refers both to direct emissions and to purchased electricity and transportation, which in 2015 accounted for 49 million tons of CO2 for the entire sector in Europe. The target is for these emissions to fall by 2050 to 12 million tons, i.e. a reduction of 37 million tons of CO2 across the entire European pulp and paper industry.
The Roadmap estimates that 60% of this reduction will be obtained by an improved fuel mix, thanks to the growing use of low-carbon or carbon-free fuels, as well as by energy efficiency, by process improvements that include transition to Industry 4.0, by the enhancement of cogeneration to make demand more flexible, and by applying innovative emerging technologies. Another 30% of the reduction will come from reducing indirect emissions from purchased electric power in parallel with decarbonisation of the European electricity sector. Finally, the remaining 10% will come from transportation through efficiency measures, the use of less polluting fuels, improved infrastructures, intermodality, etc.
The pulp and paper sector is electricity and gas intensive and the leader in industrial decarbonisation. Fuel mix, cogeneration and energy efficiency are key factors in reducing CO2 emissions as part of the decarbonisation process the paper industry is immersed in both in Spain and in the rest of Europe.
In the papermaking process, bark, lignin and fibre residues that are not suitable for recycling are increasingly used as fuel on site at the mills, thus making the paper industry both the largest producer and largest industrial consumer of biomass in Spain. Currently 33% of the fuel used by the sector is biomass or biogas, compared to 23% just one decade ago, while the rest of the fuel used is natural gas.
The Spanish paper industry produces most of the energy its mills consume in cogeneration plants located next to the pulp- or paper-making facilities and which together add up to an installed capacity of 1,086 MW. Cogeneration is a BAT (Best Available Technology) that simultaneously produces electricity and heat in the form of steam, thus optimising the use of fuel, saving primary energy and reducing emissions. It is a highly energy-efficient, distributed power generation system, which for the paper sector is a tool of environmental and economic efficiency and at the same time an instrument in its competitiveness, given the traditionally high costs of industrial electricity in Spain.
21st century consumers are looking for natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable products that are low in carbon. Few products satisfactorily meet those requirements as paper-based goods do. For that reason, paper is increasingly replacing carbon-intensive products from non-renewable sources in numerous applications
The latest trends in the pulp and paper industry in terms of new products focus on making low-carbon bio-products developed in accordance with five lines of innovation: the use of cellulose fibres from new natural sources, bio-composites, printed electronics and nanotechnology, new packaging concepts, and new products with superpowers for everyday life.

the circular bio-economy of paper

Circular bio-industry means renewable raw materials, sustainable products and efficient use of resources, all with a circular approach. This dual concept is a powerful means of speeding up progress towards a low-carbon economy, and in this industrial transformation, the circular bio-economy of paper is a clear model destined to lead the new economy.
The circular bioindustry of pulp and paper in Spain uses 1.9 million tons of pulp and 4.4 million tons of paper for recycling (in equivalent tons of pulp) as raw material. 70% of the raw material used by the Spanish paper industry is recycled fibre and 30% virgin fibre from certified wood (63%) and always legally-logged wood from controlled sources.
The key data for measuring the level of recycling is to see how much of the total paper and board consumed in Spain is collected for recycling after use and how much our paper industry recycles, i.e. how much paper for recycling it uses as raw material, and in both indicators, Spain passes with top marks.
Collection rate (the amount of paper collected for recycling as a percentage of total paper consumption) in Spain has remained at around or even slightly above the European average in recent years. As far as recycling rate is concerned (consumption of recycled paper used as a raw material as a percentage of total paper and board consumption), the European average in 2017 was 62%, while Spain currently exceeds that figure by twelve percentage points (74%); not surprisingly, Spanish industry is the third largest recycler in Europe in terms of volume.
Separated municipal collection of paper and board in Spain is a success story within Europe. The blue bin system, reinforced by door-to-door collection from small retail businesses and supplementary collections from schools and municipal offices, has amply demonstrated its effectiveness.
The strength and appropriateness of our system and the commitment and collaboration of all agents involved will undoubtedly enable us to tackle the changes taking place on the international paper for recycling market with success. China has developed a plan to improve its municipal collection systems and has opted for higher quality requirements in its imports of paper for recycling. This double strategy by the Chinese giant is having a worldwide impact, discouraging collection systems that generate lower quality material that is increasingly difficult to market.
Thanks to its enormous recycling capacity, the Spanish paper industry guarantees that it will recycle all paper and board collected separately from other waste, that complies with European quality standards, i.e., with European standard EN 643.
The sector’s process waste management policy is primarily aimed at minimising the quantity, by subjecting raw materials to stringent quality control and implementing improvements in the industrial process itself. As far as waste actually generated is concerned, the goal is to expand available opportunities to recover and re-use it and thus minimise eventual landfilling. The disposal of waste in a controlled landfill is only considered when no alternative is available. The percentage of waste sent to landfill has been reduced very significantly, from 38% just one decade ago to 19% last year.
Currently 81% of process waste is re-used in various ways: for energy recovery principally on site (39%), as raw material in other sectors such as the cement or ceramics industries (9.1%), for direct agricultural use (8.8%) and as compost (7.3%). Significant progress has been made in re-using this waste as fuel on site at mills, a scheme that has grown from just 0.5% in 2008 to 36.7% today.
5.5 million cubic metres of wood are used to produce virgin fibre (pulp) in Spain. 98% of that wood comes from local pine and eucalyptus plantations. Sourcing of pine wood is entirely local, as is 97% of eucalypt wood (the remaining 3% comes from eucalyptus plantations in other European countries). All the wood used by the sector comes from legal logging with strict traceability controls.
A large, growing percentage of this wood comes with sustainable forest management certification (FSC and/or PEFC): certified wood consumed by the sector amounts to 63%, or 75% in the case of eucalyptus.
100% of pulp mills and pulp suppliers are certified, as are 92% of wood suppliers to the sector and 75% of its paper mills. The figures for products show 56% of market pulp and 61% of market paper is certified.
The 512,481 hectares of plantations where wood is grown to make paper are large CO2 sinks that fix 46 million tons of CO2 equivalent, thus helping to curb climate change, which according to recent surveys is now Spanish citizens’ predominant environmental concern.
In the context of an increasingly ageing and diminishing rural population, local wood for paper plantations are a powerhouse of development and a source of employment and creation of wealth. Reforestation and management work account for 5,526 direct jobs, on top of which come a further 17,780 indirect jobs in machinery, transportation, workshops ... These 23,306 jobs enable a stable population to settle in depressed areas, thus helping to alleviate growing rural abandonment. The plantations also contribute significantly to the income of what are mostly small-scale forest landowners.

Creation of employment and wealth

Spain is one of the largest European producers of pulp and paper, with 68 paper mills and 10 pulp mills. 57% of the pulp and 43% of the paper made in Spain is destined to foreign trade, which accounts for 56% of turnover.
The circular bioindustry of pulp and paper has an important multiplier effect on the economy through its powerful value chain, from wood for paper plantations through pulp and paper making and the various types of industries and services in the sector (converting industries, advertising and direct marketing, printers, publishers), to delivery logistics (courier and postal services), and closing the cycle by recovering used paper and board and returning it to paper mills.
The overall contribution (direct + indirect + induced) to the economy of this powerful value chain accounts for 4.5% of GDP and generates one in every fifty jobs in Spain, according to a recent study by CEPREDE for organisations in the chain. Furthermore, four out of every fifty euros invoiced by the industry and one out of every fifty euros collected by the State through taxation or Social Security contributions in Spain are linked to this value chain’s business.
Employment in the circular bioindustry of paper is characterised by its stability and low turnover. At present, 89% of the workforce is on a permanent contract and 11% are temporary jobs. One in three employees (31.4%) has been with the company for over 20 years, while three fifths (61.6%) have over ten years’ seniority.


ASPAPEL (Asociación Española de Fabricantes de Pasta, Papel y Cartón) Press Office:

Information and Image | Paseo de la Castellana, 140  |  Tel: 915616826
Contacts: Ángeles Álvarez| Email: aalvarez [at] informacioneimagen [dot] es
Eva de Santos | Email: evadesantos@informacioneim