W.If he spontaneously stands at the checkout in the supermarket during his lunch break or after work without his own bag, it can currently happen that the paper bags are missing there from time to time. “Due to the tense global raw material situation”, the Cologne-based retail group Rewe announced on request, “there could be temporary bottlenecks in paper bags in individual highly frequented markets”. The situation is not tense, as additional purchases keep bringing in goods. In addition, there are enough “environmentally friendly alternatives” such as cotton carrier bags or cardboard checkout boxes.
The discounter Lidl, which, like Kaufland, belongs to the Schwarz Group, does not want to provide any information on internal processes, but also states that there were briefly “due to increased demand, occasional delivery delays for our paper bags”. The competitor Aldi Süd is observing “the situation on the market very closely”, but has not yet seen any delivery bottlenecks. The supermarket giant Edeka with its around 3,600 self-employed merchants does not see itself in a position to give an overview of the paper bag situation at the supermarket checkouts due to its decentralized structure.
Waste paper prices have risen sharply
The fact is: delivery times and raw material costs have also been increasing for a few months with paper. One of the reasons for this is that, according to the Fastmarkets FOEX industry index, the prices for recovered paper in Germany have risen by 78 percent since the beginning of the year to currently around 200 euros per ton. Cellulose, the second important raw material, is also currently in short supply on the world market, which is also due to the demand for wood from China.
The industry is also groaning that the bottlenecks are not only due to the main raw materials – the shortage extends from means of transport to pallets to adhesives, according to the Industrial Association of Paper and Foil Packaging (IPV). Its managing director Karsten Hunger is even clearer than the retail groups: “In fact, there is currently this bottleneck, especially for paper carrier bags,” says Hunger. “The merchandise management processes are disrupted and remain vulnerable.”
As the economy continues to pick up, the situation in the entire packaging industry is not expected to ease. “We are pessimistic about normality in the medium, maybe also only in the long term. According to our information, the capacities in terms of machines, personnel and material will be almost fully exhausted by the end of the year, ”says Hunger. That will not change immediately in 2022 either.
Delivery services need a lot of paper
No one has yet recorded how many paper bags are pulled over the checkout scanner in Germany each year. It was different for plastic bags, since the Federal Environment Ministry liked to speak of 1.5 billion light plastic bags a year or the equivalent of a consumption of 18 per inhabitant. Even before the ban on plastic bags at the beginning of next year, they are hardly to be found at the cash registers due to a voluntary commitment by retailers.
The Ministry of the Environment also sees an increase in the consumption of paper bags, “but not to the same extent as the consumption of plastic bags has declined”. It stands to reason that consumers are increasingly using reusable containers to transport their purchases. But according to the IPV, which unites manufacturers of paper bags as well as napkin manufacturers or suppliers of plastic carrier bags, the ban on plastic bags has strengthened the trend towards paper.