Demand for U.S. Recycled Paper High

Recently, China has had a voracious appetite for scrap paper, much of which it imports from the United States. The demand in China grew more than 50 percent in 2003, according to the paper industry. Chinese mills purchased about 6 million tons of the 50 million tons of recovered American paper last year, according to the American Forest & Paper Association. To meet that demand, China's mills offer higher prices than many American paper makers, as do mills in India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea. U.S. scrap paper often ends up in the new Nine Dragons recycled paper mill -- the world's largest -- in Dongguan, China, north of Hong Kong. Workers there are paid about $3.40 a day to sort mixed paper by hand -- far less than American workers, who are paid at least the $5.15 per hour minimum wage.

Demand for recycled paper is improving in the U.S. too, according to Merilyn Dunn of InfoTrends/CAP Ventures, a Massachusetts consulting firm. Nationwide, shipments of recycled paper rose nearly 12 percent from 2001 to 2003, according to InfoTrends. A variety of factors are involved, Clapp said, including the fact that environmental groups are pressuring retailers and catalog producers to offer more paper containing recycled material, and the price of recycled paper has dropped, reaching a price equal to virgin paper.

[by Justin Thomas]