Industries paper over raw material crisis


India’s paper and pulp industry is going through a raw material crisis. Also, the Indian mills are not upgraded to process waste paper efficiently, thereby putting pressure on the environment.

By Manasvi Gupta

Bengaluru: Writing ‘save paper’ on a piece of paper and sticking it on the trunks of trees to show off your ‘climate protecting’ skills isn’t reaping the expected fruits, as the elementary raw materials for paper and pulp industry, like wood, wheat straw and bagasse (obtained from the sugarcane) are vanishing.

Rohit Pandit, Secretary-General of Indian Paper Manufacturers Association (IPMA) stated that almost 40 to 50 per cent of the total production cost is utilized in extracting raw material for the industry.

Karnataka’s paper mills use locally grown bamboo and bagasse as raw material.

Reports show that the state accounts for around five per cent of the total capacity of India.

The mills are concentrated at Bhadravati, Dandeli, Nandangaud, Belagola, Munirabad, Harihar, Mundyud, Bengaluru, Mandya, Ramnagaram, and Krishnarajasagara.


If you preserve all those old newspapers to sell at the end of the year to buy alcohol for the New Year’s party, then you should know that the waste paper you sell doesn’t quite contribute to the industry.

Around 35 per cent of the waste paper goes back for recycling, according to Mr. Pandit. Moreover, he estimated that of this recycled paper, the recovery rate is only 38 per cent, that is, the amount of paper actually consumed.

This has increased the import of pulp and waste paper, which has affected the cost of production of paper.

Mr. Pandit attributed this to lack of consumer awareness. “Collection rate of waste paper can be increased only by increasing awareness. People throw waste paper in the garbage or those who sell it don’t segregate it, which makes it worthless for processing.”

Suresh Heblikar, an environmentalist at EcoWatch believes that since white writing paper cannot be produced by recycled paper, so its uses are limited.


“Since bagasse can also be used in ethanol production, its availability to manufacture paper is less than others,” said the IPMA official. He revealed that no logistics are available for it.

Regarding wheat straw, he said that the practice of stubble burning in various parts of the country accounts for its shortage. “There is no awareness among the farmers that they can earn by selling the remaining wheat straw to paper mills.”


Mr. Pandit revealed that there is a disparity of around two million tonnes in the supply and demand of wood in the industry. He said that there is a demand of approximately 11 million tons of wood per year, of which only nine million tonnes of raw material is available to use.

He further stated that more than 90 per cent of the wood comes from the agro-based forest industry.

“The main cause of wood and pulp shortage is that the government doesn’t allow any commercial plantation in the country. Moreover, no policies have been formulated to deal with it. So the organization has taken up the task of motivating farmers to grow trees which provide pulp for the paper industry, just like any other crop,” he added.

To deal with the crisis, the IPMA official said that they are suggesting different models to the government, like using degraded land to set up paper mills, along with commercially valuable plants, which he believed will help to increase the green cover as well.

Mr. Heblikar added that all aspects of social and economic benefits need to be looked at, as industries need to survive too.

“Government needs to formulate agitational policies to reduce the use of paper.”

A researcher at the Central Pulp & Paper Research Institute (CPPRI) stated that a lot of research is going on to look for alternate raw materials, specifically which are not wood-based.

“Since the institute provides only technical help,” he said, “the results have not yet been economically viable.”

He went on to say that the raw materials that are currently available have their own limitations as well, like bagasse and straw contain silica which makes them difficult to process, thereby affecting the cost of raw materials.

Mr. Heblikar further pointed out the wastage of paper by the education industry.

He said, “Either children should be made aware of the importance of paper and the ill-effects of its wastage on the environment, or they should not be distributed white, writing paper notebooks for free.”

He also pointed out that the newspaper industry too contributes to wastage of tons of paper. “These media houses keep printing papers even if they are not sold at the same rate, which is a serious issue,” he said.

A study predicted the paper industry is expected to grow at an average of 7.8 per cent a year, implying that by 2025 India will be producing 22 million tons of paper a year.

Mr. Pandit added that availability may fluctuate, but demand always remains high.