Quantifying the system-wide recovery potential of waste in the global paper life cycle

Stijn van Ewijk, Joo Young Park, Marian R. Chertow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Waste from the global paper life cycle can be a lost economic opportunity and a risk to the natural environment and human health. This study assesses the recovery potential of major waste flows in the global paper life cycle to support improvements in material use. The “recovery potential” indicator shows the technical possibility for extracting value from waste through recycling and other forms of recovery. The potential is identified through a review of recovery technologies that are currently applied or likely to be commercially available by the year 2050. The analysis compares current material use in the global paper life cycle with an ideal scenario in which the recovery potential of all major waste flows is fulfilled. In the ideal scenario, the Recycled Input Ratio (RIR) is increased from 38% to 67%–73% and the landfill intensity is reduced from 331–473 kg/t paper to 0–2.6 kg/t paper. The reduction in required landfill space is achieved mainly through increased consumer waste recycling. Better management of industrial waste from the paper sector has a rather limited impact on the RIR and landfill intensity. The conditions for successful recovery of waste are discussed separately. The analysis shows that the recovery potential indicator can be usefully applied to estimate potential improvements in complex material systems and the findings may inform policies for resource efficiency and the circular economy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-60
Number of pages13
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jul


  • Industrial symbiosis
  • Pulp and paper
  • Recovery potential
  • Recycling
  • Waste management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Economics and Econometrics


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