The paper and board market is global, and so is the paper industry where an evident consolidation has occurred over the last decades: In 1980 the 150 biggest companies contributed about 45 % to the overall production, in 2000 this figure was about 70 % in a market which had nearly doubled from about 170 million tons/year to about 320 million tons/year. It seems that this concentration process has not yet come to an end. Papermaking has changed from an “art”, where all specific processes were kept secret, to an industry with high-tech production facilities and with a scientific approach. Great challenges are e. g. the huge production quantities per unit and the high quality demands placed on the paper and board properties and their uniformity.
Only high quality products – at low price – satisfy the expectations of the customer and end user. Since paper is a commodity, low cost production is mandatory. As the fiber raw material is the main cost factor in paper production recovered paper has become the main fiber stock material worldwide and its proportion will increase further. Several grades, such as newsprint and many packaging and board grades, can be entirely based on recycled fibers. Today recovered fibers must be used in paper grades similar to the recovered paper grade, downgrading of recovered paper (high quality fibers for lower quality paper products) is no longer economic. In former times, with mainly virgin fibers consumption, a paper mill was located close to the wood (and the water and energy resources).
This is still true for regions of Portugal, Spain and Brazil with Eucalypt plantations used mainly for copy or similar paper grades. One result of the increased use of recovered paper is that certain new “green field” paper mills are established today in the vicinity of highly populated areas to have easier access to recovered paper resources and to be closer to the market. The capital demand for a new mill is of the order of magnitude of 500 million €. In the last thirty years the investment costs (inflation-adjusted) related to the specific annual production (t/a) have been approximately halved. This drop is mainly due to increased machine speeds and machine widths as well as to improved runnability. On the other hand the investment costs related to annual turnover have remained constant or even increased.