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A new face has been leading REMONDIS Trade and Sales – the company specialising in recycling and marketing recovered paper – since November. In a recent interview, Frederik Jastrembski (32), the company’s new managing director, talked about the business he is now in charge of – one he describes as being both susceptible to change and exciting at the same time.
Frederik Jastrembski: It’s definitely experiencing squally winds at the moment – something even I am not used to despite coming from Hamburg. Prices plummeted soon after I took up my job in November – so much so that some kinds of recovered paper were at below-zero pricing. The Covid-19 crisis and the lockdowns in force across Europe then led to a shortage – practically overnight. Prices recovered within just a few days and in some cases are now much higher than last year.
Frederik Jastrembski: Basically speaking, Europe has a surplus of around eight million tonnes of waste paper a year, although Germany’s well-organised paper industry was able to cope with this well. However, much greater volumes of paper began arriving in Germany from other European nations after other countries such as China began accepting less and less waste, including recovered paper. By the beginning of this year, recovered paper was having to be stored in warehouses as paper mills were unable to take any more.
Frederik Jastrembski: Yes, the coronavirus measures have dramatically changed the situation. The volumes of paper coming from other countries nosedived almost immediately and then there was a slump in Germany as well. The automobile industry closed down its operations, as did furniture stores and other retailers. Huge volumes of recovered paper that would otherwise be on the market are no longer there. The paper industry soon became worried – and justifiably so – that they would not be able to access the supplies they need to run their mills.
Frederik Jastrembski, Managing Director of REMONDIS Trade & Sales
Frederik Jastrembski: If you think about the circular economy, then it’s pretty clear what would happen if paper mills had to shut down. It would not just affect supplies of toilet paper, which is so popular at the moment, but the food industry as well as much of their packaging depends on recovered paper. We would have the food but not the packaging to put it in. The work we do collecting and supplying waste paper is, therefore, also an essential service.
Frederik Jastrembski: Solid is not the right word to use here. There are still too many uncertainties. No one is able to predict how the situation will develop in the future. Fortunately, the volumes of recovered paper from households have remained the same but those from commercial businesses have dropped dramatically. Over the short to medium term, the way and the speed that the coronavirus lockdown measures are lifted will have a major influence on supply and demand. It’s not possible to rule out that the current artificial shortage of recovered paper will suddenly be reversed and that the prices will fall rapidly again. This would mean the business would experience the third dramatic change in prices within a really short period of time.
Frederik Jastrembski: What everyone probably needs to have at the moment is security. For us that means continuing to be able to secure delivery of the volumes of paper that are still available. Which is why local authorities certainly mustn’t make the rash decision to stop kerbside collections of waste paper in their regions as the City of Würzburg has just done. What’s more, some more information from the central and state governments about the Covid-19 measures would enable us to plan ahead – something that is very important to us. The more we know, the quicker we and the paper industry can react and adapt.
Frederik Jastrembski: Basically speaking, what is important is that there is more stability on the market. We must avoid having a situation like we had at the beginning of the year – when the whole logic of the market was turned completely upside down, partly as a result of negative pricing. It is our job to provide the industry with a reliable supply of high quality raw materials. Besides having modern sorting systems, it is also very important that the waste material is separated correctly. Local authorities must take on much more responsibility here and ensure that the right materials are being thrown into the waste paper bins. Even if environmental policies are being pushed into the background at the moment, it is still essential to cut carbon emissions and conserve natural resources. We are all being forced to rethink the way we live and work and it is our task to make the most of this shift and work more closely with politicians, industrial businesses and consumers to find ways to sustainably protect the environment and the economy.