Shifting spotlight on paper

The industry celebrated Paper Day, organised by FPTA, on 1 August, with the agenda to meet the challenges the Indian paper industry faces, and to clear the misconception among the public that paper is harmful to the environment. Dibyajyoti Sarma and Rahul Kumar report

23 Aug 2019 | By PrintWeek India

Dignitaries at the dais inaugurate the Paper Day in New Delhi on 1 August

The second edition of Paper Day, envisioned as an annual event to promote the cause of paper, and organised by the Federation of Paper Trader’s Association of India (FPTA), was held on 1 August 2019 in New Delhi. The event was attended by all stakeholders associated with the paper industry, including paper manufacturers, paper traders and others. 

The FPTA has chosen 1 August to commemorate as Paper Day because on this day in 1940, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurated the Handmade Paper Institute in Pune, in a bid to revive and preserve the rich heritage of handmade paper-making in India. Consequently, the first copies of the Constitution of India were printed on paper manufactured at the institute.

Keeping with this theme, speakers at the Paper Day celebration reiterated the importance of paper and its myriad uses (as one speaker suggested, paper has more than 14,000 different usage).

The stress was also on the benefits of using paper, as it is environment-friendly, recyclable and bio-degradable. The speakers also focused on the all-pervasive importance of paper in our lives.

From getting a birth certificate to getting a death certificate, from the toilet to the kitchen — paper is a part of every product and services we use. Thus, for the stakeholders, paper is not a commodity, it’s an emotional connect. 

The dignitaries present on the occasion also spoke about the need to bust the popular myth that paper manufacturing is harmful to the environment. Instead of cutting down the forest cover, the speakers said, the Indian paper industry has contributed immensely to increase it, through its farm forestry initiatives, while also offering job opportunities to the rural population.  

While paper manufacturing in India has its set of challenges — such as lack of availability of local fibre; water usage; environmental pressures and public perception — the industry as a whole is expectant of a bright future, as per capital consumption of paper in India is still significantly low compared to the global average. Also, the government’s push to reduce the use of single-use plastic should help the cause of paper. 

The business of paper

The chief guest for the event, Dr Ashwani Mahajan, national co-conventor, Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, stressed on promoting the capacity of local paper manufacturing instead of relying on imports.

He also said that it’s time all stakeholders come together to protect the interest of domestic industries. Mahajan said, “Despite all these talks about digital, paper will survive, no questions about it.”

However, digital is here to stay, and the guest of honour for the event, Praveen Khandelwal, national general secretary, Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), urged the paper traders to come onboard with the government to push towards digital transactions, including following GST norms and online transactions. 

He also urged paper traders to create sector specific white papers to present their grievances before the government. 

Giving a brief overview of the history of paper manufacturing, keynote speaker for the event, JP Narain, CEO, Century Pulp and Paper, said that there is a projected demand and supply gap in paper consumption in the country. 

The demand is only set to rise with the rise of the FMCG sector and the need for alternatives to plastic. This is a huge opportunity for local paper mills, he said.

Paper for packaging 

Speaking on the subject of packaging as a growth driver for paper, MK Goyal, secretary general, Indian Pulp & Paper Technical Association (IPPTA), presented some helpful data. Saying that there are different figures being presented as the total production of paper in India, Goyal said according to IPPTA’s official figures, the country produces 23-million tonnes of paper per year. “The number could be as high as 25-million tonnes,” he added. This production comes from 464 paper mills using 677 machines. 

Among these, the production of Kraft paper is the highest at 12-million tonnes, followed by writing and printing paper (5.9-million tonnes); paperboard (3.6-million tonnes); newsprint (1.3-million tonnes); and tissue paper (0.2-million tonnes).

In the packaging sector, Goyal said, the highest demand is for premium virgin boards, which are used for pharma export, FMCG, and food products. As this paper is used for exports, the demand to meet export quality is a challenge. He said in the past the segment was growing at 12-15% and it is expected to grow at 10%.

The recycled paperboards are usually used for FMCG and pharma. In this segment, the major challenge for local mills is the import pressure, as all Asean countries, including South Korea, do not have to pay duty on recycled paperboards while the import duty from China has been reduced from 10% to 7%. The growth in the FMCG segment should fuel the demand for this segment. 

Kraft papers are used in eCommerce, polyester tubes, general packaging and FMCG. Beside export, with the growing concern about plastic, Kraft paper is expected to see a major demand in the carry bag segment. Goyal said, recently the industry stakeholders met in Goa to discuss the ways to find a substitute for plastic in paper.  

Goyal said one of the challenges of India-made Kraft paper is the odour, for which they are often  rejected. “Today, burst factor (BF) is not the standard, but RCP,” he said, adding, “Again, we do not use virgin paper and that’s a challenge.”

Goyal said the common challenges for packaging paper, and for that matter, paper production in general, is the lack of availability of fibre, the menace of plastic in waste, scale of operation and environment compliance. “Environment compliance is a sword hanging over the paper industry,” Goyal said.

Coming to the consumption of paper for packaging in numbers, Goyal said the consumption of virgin board is 1-million tonnes per year and it’s growing at 10%. The consumption of paperboard is 2.6-million tonnes and it’s growing at 5.6%. The Kraft paper market is growing at 7%.

In total, the country consumes 15.6-million tonnes of packaging paper per annum. Of these, 15.1-million tonnes are Indian production, and 0.5-million tonnes are imported. 

Saying that soon there will be an additional demand of 1.1-million tonnes of packaging paper per year, Goyal asked if the local industry is ready to meet the demands. 

His answer was an affirmation. “There are capacities, expansions are being made and machines are being upgraded,” he concluded.

Curbing the misinformation

Earlier, welcoming the gathering, Satyapal Gupta, convenor of Paper Day, announced that from the next year onwards, the Paper Day event will be celebrated in different cities on rotation basis. “Paper Day is for all stakeholders to come together and give back,” he said. “Paper draws inspiration from Mother Nature, and by way of planting trees, conserving water and other natural resources, and recycling, it’s time to give back to nature.”

He said it’s time to be responsible towards the environment, and use and source paper responsibly, and recycle. “The Paper Day is not just about paper, it’s about you, the stakeholders, about changing lives, changing communities, and ultimately, changing the nation,” he said.

Gupta said while paper is the most environment-friendly product, there’s lot of misinformation circulating in the media, impacting young minds. "We need a unified joint action to counter this misinformation,” he said.

On Paper Day, FPTA did just that. On the day, the 36 member associations of the Federation spread across the country visited different schools spreading awareness about paper and organising events like drawing competition and essay writing competition among school children. The members of these associations also organised walks and planted trees across India.

In a major push towards this, Gupta also revealed the plan to set up a National Museum of Paper to showcase the history and potential of paper. 

Recycling and forest covers 

Following the paper famine in 1970s, the government promoted the use of agro residues, and as a result, recycled paper mills came into existence. Today, nearly 50% of the country’s paper is recycled, said RC Rastogi, president, Indian Recycled Paper Mills Association (IRPMA). “Now, with the rising tide again the use of plastic, paper can be a viable alternative if we can find an alternative to poly-coating used in items like paper cups,” he added. “It’s a challenge and the industry will have to come up with a solution.”

He also said that the industry is one of the biggest contributors in increasing the country’s forest cover, as the industry plants two trees against the use of one. He said the industry as a whole should make a concerted appeal with the government to allocate degraded forest land to the industry for social farm forestry. 

National Paper Day

Sajjan Kumar Goenka, president, FPTA told the gathering that the organisation is requesting the government to declare 1 August as National Paper Day. He said, the theme for this year’s Paper Day was ‘Voice of Paper’, to spread the message that paper is bio-degradable and environment-friendly. Towards this, the Federation also ran a social media campaign, which, Goenka said, was hugely successful in dispelling the misconceptions of paper, especially among the young people. 

Also speaking on the occasion, PS Patwari, president, Indian Newsprint Manufacturers Association (INMA), tackled the debate of digital vs paper and AS Mehta, president, Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA) talked about the concept of green-washing and the need for the paper fraternity to fight back to bust the myth about paper being harmful to the environment. 

The Paper Day event also saw the release of a mini booklet on paper compiled by DK Singhal. 

The event started with the performance of the Paper Day anthem, ‘Ek tukda kagaz ka…’ by the students of a local school. 

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