Hope for a recovered paper demand boost in the new year

As the end of the year approaches, paper companies have seen box shipments begin to tick up, but significant downtime still is being reported.

stack of corrugated cardboard
As the end of the year approaches, paper companies have seen box shipments begin to tick up, but significant downtime still is being reported.
Katia | stock.adobe.com

In a year marked just as much by closures and downtime as with facility openings, companies across the paper industry are hopeful a demand boost is on the horizon.

Since the start of the year, WestRock, Packaging Corp. of America, International Paper (IP), Greif, Domtar and ND Paper all have announced shutdowns in response to what has been a challenging market, with box demand reaching lows not seen in more than a decade.

“There are three big players who feed the majority of the industry, [and] each one of these players has managed supply and demand their own way,” Bloomberg’s Ryan Fox said during the Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference in October. “International Paper has been rolling downtime through their mills; WestRock’s done permanent closures; [and] Packaging Corp. [of America] has done a … permanent idle of sorts of their new Wallula [, Washington] mill.”

While all three of those companies have reported less downtime quarter to quarter, they each continue to report significant economic downtime compared with a year ago.

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