105 kilos: according to Germany's Federal Environment Agency, this is how much paper, paperboard and cardboard the country consumed per person in 2020. Put everyone together and it adds up to a total of 18.3 million tonnes. That same year, the German paper industry produced around 21.4 million tonnes of these products, using approximately 17 million tonnes of waste paper from Germany and other European countries. In other words, waste paper accounted for some 79% of the total output volume. This is where a joint logistics solution from DB Cargo and Smurfit Kappa Recycling B.V. comes in. It is already increasing the role for sustainable rail transport in Europe's waste paper recycling processes.
"We have been transporting waste paper from Denmark to Germany for many years," says Carolin Niess, Account Manager at DB Cargo Scandinavia. "Norway was newly included at the end of 2021 and has filled a gap in our network. When you think of Norway, the options for operating rail freight to Central Europe aren't immediately obvious."
Efficiently coordinating lorries, ships and freight trains
In a first step, waste paper compressed into bales is collected by truck in Tønsberg, Kristiansand and Arendal and driven to a ferry terminal. There, the lorries board the ferry to Hirtshals in Denmark before continuing on to Aalborg, which is where the waste paper bales are transferred to DB Cargo trains bound for Germany via the single wagon network. Their ultimate destination is the Smurfit Kappa papermill at Hoya, an hour's drive south of Bremen. "This multimodal solution is exciting because Norway is a new market for us and because this trimodal transport network demonstrates how efficiently lorries, ships and rail freight can work together," says Niess.
Freight volume doubles in a single year
The concept is working: DB Cargo Scandinavia has almost doubled its single wagonload shipments with Smurfit Kappa Recycling, from 35,500 tonnes in 2020 to 61,500 tonnes in 2021. "The other benefit is that there are no empty runs," adds Niess. "Wagons loaded with goods for Danish consumers and waste for Danish combined heat and power plants head north to Denmark from Italy and Germany and return south with waste paper."
"Freight trains are crucial for sustainable overland transport"
For Chris Fleuren, logistics manager at Smurfit Kappa Recycling, the new transport solution is key to the company's climate protection goals, which include achieving net zero emissions by 2050. "The circular economy plays a central role in our sustainability mission." The company plans to supply customers with sustainable packaging as a way of cutting water consumption as well as waste and CO2 production. Creating a suitable logistics system is a decisive factor, he says: "Rail freight transport is essential for delivering sustainable overland transport for waste management activities. This also applies to carbon-neutral waste paper transport, something that DB Cargo has excelled at for years."
Waste paper: Green pioneer for the circular economy
Collecting and recycling paper has long been well established in Germany and elsewhere, and waste paper is now the most important raw material for paper producers alongside pulp and water. Lorries collect commercial and municipal paper recycling containers and bring them to storage facilities in the local region. From there, trains then transport the material to private and municipal waste management companies, which sort it and press it into bales for onward transport. Waste paper suppliers such as Smurfit Kappa Recycling B.V. collect the bales from the waste management companies and transport them to paper mills. There, the waste paper is first transformed into pulp as a way of removing foreign matter and fibre failures. Afterwards, the remaining 80% of the material is turned into new paper.
About Smurfit Kappa
Smurfit Kappa is one of the world's leading producers of paper-based packaging. The company employs around 46,000 people and has approximately 350 production sites in 35 countries: 23 are in Europe and 12 in the Americas. In 2020, the Smurfit Kappa Group's global sales amounted to EUR 8.5 billion. When it was established in Dublin in 1934, the company produced cardboard and other packaging boxes for the Irish market. Following its acquisition by businessman Jefferson Smurfit in 1938, it grew to become the leading manufacturer of paper-based packaging in Ireland.
Jefferson Smurfit continued to expand and moved into the US market, where the company merged with Chicago-based Stone Container Corporation in 1998. Making the most of new markets and new manufacturing facilities, it became the global industry leader in paper-based packaging production. Smurfit Kappa was formed in 2005 when Jefferson Smurfit merged with Kappa Packaging – a Dutch company founded in 1974 and Europe's largest manufacturer of corrugated paper and cardboard packaging. The corporation's global headquarters is in Dublin, with regional headquarters in Amsterdam and Miami.