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Pulp and Paper Manufacturing

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry.

Australia’s Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry generates products that can be found in virtually every business and household across Australia, ranging from the paper used in books and magazines to cartons, paper stationery, tissues, nappies, paper towels and sanitary goods.

A world leader in sustainability and innovation, the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry uses independently certified renewable resources, internationally recognised best practices for recycling, and continuously improves its energy/water efficiency and emissions.

The industry’s structure is made up of six sectors encompassed within primary and secondary manufacturing. Outputs from the primary manufacturing sector of Pulp, Paper and Paperboard are used by secondary sector manufacturers, which include:

  • Corrugated Paperboard and Paperboard Container Manufacturing
  • Paper Bag and other Paper Product Manufacturing
  • Paper Stationery Manufacturing
  • Sanitary Paper Product Manufacturing
  • Paper Product Merchandising.

Nationally recognised training for the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry is delivered under the PPM – Pulp & Paper Manufacturing Industry Training Package.

For information on the Forestry and Timber Processing and Products industry sectors please visit the respective pages.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels for the Converted Paper Product Manufacturing industry sector have fluctuated over the period of 2002 to 2022. Employment increased between 2017 and 2021 from 6,600 to 11,700 before decreasing to 10,100 in 2022.  The employment level is projected to decrease further to 9,100 by 2025.

Employment levels in the Pulp, Paper and Paperboard Manufacturing industry sector have declined overall between 2002 and 2022, from 9,600 to 6,100, with a further decrease projected to 5,600 by 2025.

An overall decline in employment levels has also occurred in the Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing nfd industry sector, between 2002 and 2022, from around 7,200 to 1,600. An increase to 5,600 is projected by 2025.

The occupations of Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators, Printers, and Other Stationary Plant Operators make up around 22% of the Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing industry sector. Employment in the occupations of Printers, and Other Stationary Plant Operators is projected to decline over the next few years to 2026 by 13% and 12% respectively. Employment in the occupation of Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators is projected to increase by 2% over the same period.

Training trends

Training snapshot

There has been minimal training activity in the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Industry Training Package over the past 5 years.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER's Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

 

Industry insights on skills needs

The Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast highlighted the following priority skills for the industry:

  • Pulp de-inking and bleaching for high and medium grade paper products
  • Technology skills for paper bag, paper stationery and sanitary paper product manufacturing.

In addition, the top generic skills identified for the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry include:

  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self management (adaptability)
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills)
  • Technology
  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence.

The above Skills Forecast outlines a diversity of challenges and opportunities faced by the industry, brought about by a range of factors:

  • Resources – The scarcity of wood fibre and a growing global demand for the resource continues to be a concern around the world. In response to this, Australia has high rates of secondary fibre production which provide necessary resources and opportunities for the industry, with industrial paper and paperboard recycling rates equal to Europe and the United States.
  • Environment – Although the industry is a world leader in sustainability and innovation through its use of energy and water efficient practices, considerable efforts and advancement are being made to ensure the sustainability of the industry. Water systems are used across pulp and paper facilities which enable the recycling of wastewater for things like farm irrigation. The sector is also looking to expand on the ability of pulp and paper mills to deliver baseload electricity to the grid with a move towards investing in Energy from Waste (EfW) at major mills.
  • Business and economics – Growth in the industry is driven by two main segments, the packaging and tissue markets. The tissue market however faces ongoing competition from predominantly Chinese imported tissue products which put consistent pressure on local producers who are sustained by the marketing strategies for branded products. Global growth in online shopping, increasing product consumption, increase in pre-packaged foods and manufacturing are behind the high demand for packaging paper.
  • Emerging products and markets – Emphasis is being placed on the economic potential of bioenergy and bioprocessing, which occur when pulp and paper mills use chemical processing to extract new value from fibres and residues. Currently these by-products are used to create energy for the mills, but global developments suggest these processes can be used for higher value products like ethanol, polymers, carbon fibres and diesel fuel. It is expected these emerging by-products and associated processes will demand new skillsets from workers.
  • Technology – In order to keep up with changing market demands mainly resulting from increased digitisation, the conversion of newsprint mills to containerboard producers are considered inevitable, even with the significant associated conversion costs.
  • Cross sectoral concerns/dependencies – Infrastructure development with a focus on air freight and digital networks for real-time supply chain management have been identified as key areas of focus for improving efficiency and competitiveness in the market.

The Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC's 2020 Skills Forecast reports that the industry has experienced a tumultuous year with major impacts from drought, bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been unforeseen and record demand for products such as toilet paper, tissues, medical, sanitary and packaging products as well as a recovered materials export ban. At the same time, the industry has continued with its push for a circular economy and move towards up taking bioenergy and biomass opportunities. There have been sectoral changes highlighted by consumers increasingly moving to online and digital habits, Australian grocery stores moving to reduced paper quality and the closure of mill sites. Bio-manufacturing and recovered paper offer opportunities for specific skill development in the industry.

The industry workforce is ageing, with only 11% of paper and wood processing machine operators aged under 24 years old. Whilst Australians are generally working longer across many industries, there is a concern that employers cannot access a younger next generation of workers to maintain industry skills and knowledge. Making VET qualifications more accessible to younger people, either through the VET in Schools program or Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), would promote the industry to potential employees, especially if training and career pathways are made clear.

During 2020 and 2021, the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC has been overseeing a complete review of the PPM Training Package through the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Review Project. Consultation with industry has taken place throughout the project to revise and update all qualifications, skill sets and units of competency within the PPM Pulp & Paper Manufacturing Industry Training Package, so they reflect current technology, terminology and processes. Targeted consultation with RTOs has also taken place, to improve the viability of training delivery. Key changes include:

  • Six qualifications at Australia Qualification Framework (AQF) levels II, III and IV have been merged into three qualifications, so that there is one at each level, reflecting the common skills across papermaking and pulping, at the same time addressing the full breadth of skills required for different job roles in a pulp or paper manufacturing facility.
  • The Diploma of Pulp and Paper Process Management has been reviewed and renamed the Diploma of Pulp and Paper Operations Management, with revisions made to the core units and updated elective selections.
  • Seven new units have been developed to cover entry level skills for working in the industry; skills in management or oversight of operations, including the research and evaluation of emerging technologies; and skills for working with advanced de-inking operations.
  • Fifty units have been reviewed to better reflect current work tasks, technology and processes.
  • Twenty-three units have been merged to become 11 units that better reflect current job tasks.
  • Three skill sets have been developed to address emerging technologies used in production processes, including de-inking and support skills for entry into the workforce and high-level roles.

The Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC's 2021 Skills Forecast reports that industry welcomed the announcement by the Federal Government in July 2020 that it will invest in Australia's waste and recycling capacity, enabling more wastepaper and cardboard to be recycled domestically. The government will commit $190 million to a new Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) that will generate $600 million of recycling investment and support new innovative infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture waste materials, including paper and cardboard. There remains a need for a wider implementation strategy around how waste is collected and sorted, and the impacts of co-mingled recycling from food contamination in collected paper and cardboard and other waste contamination. This highlights the need for skills in recovered paper in pulp and paper mills, involving sorting, grading, and processing wastepaper and cardboard that has been recovered through kerbside and other recycling programs. The skills identified in this area include:

  • Knowledge of the various stages of recovered paper operations
  • Understanding the terminology and systems involved in grading recovered paper.

Industry businesses continue to use the PPM Training Package informally as there are no RTOs delivering accredited training. A significant amount of internal training at PPM sites is based on national units of competency but is not formalised though an RTO. Some formal training is undertaken by industry which utilises training packages other than PPM, including for micro-credentials in high-risk activities that are linked to regulated/licensed operations, such as forklift, overhead cranes, boiler operations, and chemical use and handling. Some industry businesses report that non-accredited training is undertaken in lean manufacturing, leadership, and technical specialist areas.

Industry continues to struggle with attracting RTOs as partners in delivering nationally recognised training because of:

  • Unmet demand for 'flexible' training and assessment
  • RTO viability challenges, especially relating to:
    • Compliance
    • Perceived risk of using workplace trainers and assessors and the increased requirements for workplace trainers and assessors
    • Lack of developed training and assessment materials
    • Access to specialised equipment
    • Thin markets in regional areas
    • Government funding models.

Industry companies report that they have much more in-house technical knowledge available to them than an external RTO could offer. Companies prefer to develop experienced operators into workplace trainers and assessors, and partner with an RTO simply to formalise training and assessment delivery and administration. RTOs have become increasingly uncomfortable with this style of arrangement, potentially because of stringent Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) compliance requirements.

The requirement for in-house trainers to possess Training and Assessor (TAE) qualifications has been flagged as a potential barrier to engaging with the VET sector through an RTO. One pulp and paper manufacturer reported that it was not easy to attract internal operators to undertake the new TAE qualification due to its complex Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) requirements. For that business, existing trainers are stretched to capacity due to others not becoming available. Having existing trainers and assessors upgrade their TAE and enticing more operators to undertake the TAE would require support. Companies also identified that high staff retention rates mean that they cannot guarantee the minimum number of trainees each year that would incentivise an RTO to invest in and develop the sort of expertise required to facilitate high-quality training.

The PPM industry and IRC remain focussed on the challenge of creating a viable delivery mechanism that will allow for enrolments and commencements in PPM qualifications and skill sets. The critical factors that will enable this will likely also ameliorate traditional reasons for non-completion, including:

  • The provision of on-site, flexible delivery that minimises time away from the workplace
  • Training that is highly relevant and specific rather than generic and irrelevant
  • Training that is supported by employer partnerships with a training provider.

The model described above, which would utilise workplace trainers and assessors working in partnership with an RTO, offers a more robust, broader application of training, including training for current competence, upskilling and the induction of entry level employees.

Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics: March and June Quarters 2021 shows that a decline in the value of paper and paperboard imports resulted in a 3% decrease of the total value of imported wood products in 2020–21 – the import value of paper and paperboard was $1,930 million, pulp was $238 million and paper manufactures was $730 million. Reductions in roundwood, woodchip and paper and paperboard exports contributed to an 18% decrease in the total value of exported wood products in 2020–21 – the export value of paper and paperboard was $772 million and recovered paper was $206 million.

Falling to 2.995 million tonnes in 2019–20, Australia's consumption of paper and paperboard fell below 3.0 million tonnes for the first time in more than 20 years according to the 2020 Pulp and Paper Strategic Review. Over the decade to 2019–20, Australia's per capita consumption of paper and paperboard has fallen an average 3.6% per annum. Scenario driven forecasts indicate that demand for paper and paperboard will continue to decline in Australia, through to 2025. With the exception of the tissue sector and a small quantity of specialty pulps, Australia is self-sufficient for pulp. Australia does not export pulp. The opportunity for the industry in Australia to use hardwood plantation wood resource to manufacture export pulp is fast diminishing, despite the strength of global demand, and continual growth in global market pulp consumption.

Its biological basis, renewability and recyclability make paper and board the solution to many environmental challenges. With high recovery rates and extensive recycling, Australia remains reasonably well positioned compared with some other jurisdictions and materials. Despite this, it faces continued challenges to its sustainability. Most recently, the necessity to ensure that paper and board is recovered and recycled locally has allowed the industry to demonstrate the extent of its recycling supply chain, as well as seek support for further enhancements.

According to the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), high recovery and recycling rates for paper and cardboard means huge amounts of material are used again and again rather than going to waste. Paper and cardboard recovery is so significant, it supports the recovery of all other materials. The media release Australia's Essential Pulp, Paper and Packaging Industry Protects and Delivers for the Nation, states that in 2019–20 the local industry recycled 1.8 million tonnes of recovered paper, which is 54% of the industry's total production. Sustainability is a critical attribute of the Australian paper and packaging sector, to ensure it continues to deliver for years to come.

Aussie Paper and Cardboard Leads the Way During National Recycling Week highlights that paper can be recycled around 5 to 7 times and even when paper has reached the end of its useful life it can be composted, and its nutrients returned to the soil. Paper is the ultimate in circularity, renewability, and sustainability.

The 2021 National Pulp, Paper and Packaging Sustainability Report argues that the industry is on the cusp of its next surge in sustainability. Already one of the leading recyclers of its own products, Australia's pulp and paper industry also continues to develop innovative solutions and products that are at the core of its operations. By sustaining employment and growing production throughout 2020, pulp, paper and paper product producers maintained their regional footprint despite ongoing operational pressures. To further develop its role at the heart of the modern circular economy – renewable, reusable, recoverable and recyclable – the industry remains committed to working with Government to continue to reduce emissions, utilise even more renewable energy and to trade on a fair and equitable basis with its competitors, many of whom do not share the same commitments or meet similar obligations.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) report Circular Economy Roadmap for Plastics, Glass, Paper and Tyres: Pathways for Unlocking Future Growth Opportunities for Australia identifies a range of opportunities for paper, including:

  • Avoidance and prevention – Support the digitisation of information (the 'paperless' office); elimination of unnecessary packaging and substitution of disposable paper products with reusable products.
  • Design – Design eco-friendly packaging, including aspects such as simplifying packaging design to avoid composite materials; replacing problematic paper coatings with biodegradable options; removing hazardous inks from paper products; and incorporating consistent labelling to facilitate recycling and reuse.
  • Consumption – Educate users of paper how to preserve and recover the value of paper and reduce the application of difficult-to-recycle 'stickies'.
  • Collection – Encourage separation at source through: establishing multiple-bin systems for kerbside recycling; dedicated collection of polymer-coated paper products (and other coated-paper products); multi-unit development solutions; improving collection at public events, stadiums, and food courts; improving consumer recycling behaviour; and harmonising messaging about recycling.
  • Sorting – Invest in infrastructure to achieve sorting best practice, and in systems dedicated to improving quality of collected paper and sorting.
  • Recycling and manufacturing – Support opportunities for increased production and end markets for packaging and industrial paper products (e.g. corrugated cardboard boxes) and procurement of recycled office and printing paper; increase the amount of recyclate used in a variety of products such as hygiene and tissue products, moulded fibre, pet care, and construction and support growth in these industries; invest in and develop recycling infrastructure; support investment in composting technologies and waste to energy solutions for end-of-life paper.

In June 2021, AFPA welcomed the Federal Government's commitment to buy only Australian made paper – a major win for local jobs and manufacturing. The decision is an excellent outcome for Australia's local paper manufacturing and recognition from the Government about the importance of using local, sustainably sourced paper product.

COVID-19 impact

The Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC's 2020 Skills Forecast highlights that the Pulp and Paper Manufacturing industry was granted essential industry status and continued to operate throughout the COVID-19 crisis to ensure Australians continued to have access to essential goods and services including:

  • Toilet paper, tissues, medical products, sanitary products and other paper products experiencing record demand
  • Cardboard packaging for supermarket and retail deliveries, including pharmaceuticals
  • Food and beverage packaging
  • Newspaper for most of Australia's metropolitan and regional newspapers, which are an essential source of information for the community.

Policies and procedures were developed and implemented to minimise the risk of the spread of COVID-19 and strategies for dealing with any skills shortages as a result of COVID-19 were also developed.

Employment in the largest sectors of Pulp and Paper Manufacturing were expected to remain steady prior to COVID-19. It is unclear what the impact of COVID-19 will be on employment, but it could be anticipated to remain steady or increase, with higher demand for Australian produced toilet paper and other paper products; and increased use of packaging materials with greater levels of online purchasing and delivery. Parcel volumes in the initial nation-wide lockdown period reached similar levels to peak periods such as Christmas and online sales such as Black Friday and Boxing Day.

The Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC's 2020 Skills Forecast states that the industry responded reasonably well to the high demand, driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, for paper products during 2020. The huge demand experienced by businesses for paper products, particularly toilet paper, was fuelled by changing consumer behaviour. However, sales of copy paper plummeted due to decreased business-to-business sales because of business inactivity and a shift to working from home arrangements. Sales of copy paper were also impacted by government procurement policies that do not specify the use of Australian products. The production of lightweight coated paper for catalogues, advertising and promotion was also impacted as businesses curbed advertising production and distribution due to lockdowns. Demand for paper-based medical equipment, including face masks, gowns and hygiene products, increased throughout 2020 as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic has driven an increase in home deliveries, which has resulted in a surge in delivery boxes and other packaging fibre in the kerbside recycling stream. The fibre this provides is a valuable commodity. Employment levels in the industry have been maintained throughout the pandemic. The industry has also had to deal with the impact of issues affecting the upstream supply chain, including bushfires and market supply issues.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC

 

Relevant research

2020 Pulp and Paper Strategic Review – IndustryEdge

2021 National Pulp, Paper and Packaging Sustainability Report – Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

AFPA Welcomes Federal Government Commitment to Buy Only Australian Made Paper [media release] – Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

Aussie Paper and Cardboard Leads the Way During National Recycling Week [media release] – Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

Australia's Essential Pulp, Paper and Packaging Industry Protects and Delivers for the Nation [media release] – Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

Australian Forest and Wood Products Statistics: March and June Quarters 2021 – Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

Circular Economy Roadmap for Plastics, Glass, Paper and Tyres: Pathways for Unlocking Future Growth Opportunities for Australia – Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)

Pulp and Paper Manufacturing Review Project – Pulp and Paper Manufacturing IRC

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australasian Pulp and Paper Technical Association (Appita)

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA)

ForestWorks

IndustryEdge

 

Employee associations

Australian Workers’ Union (AWU)

Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU)

 

Industry research and development services bodies

Bioresource Processing Institute of Australia (BioPRIA)

Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA)

 

 

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Industry Employment Projections viewed 1 August 2021, Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2025
    • 150 Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing
    • 151 Pulp, Paper and Paperboard Manufacturing
    • 152 Converted Paper Product Manufacturing.

National Skills Commission 2022, Occupation Employment Projections viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/topics/employment-projections

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2026
    • 7113 Paper and Wood Processing Machine Operators
    • 3923 Printers
    • 7129 Other Stationary Plant Operators
    • 7213 Forklift Drivers
    • 8321 Packers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2022, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2022. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2022

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2002 to 2022, May quarter
    • 150 Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing
    • 151 Pulp, Paper and Paperboard Manufacturing
    • 152 Converted Paper Product Manufacturing.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 2 digit Pulp, Paper and Converted Paper Product Manufacturing industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider CollectionTotal VET Students and Courses from the PPM Pulp & Paper Manufacturing Industry Training Package.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2017 to 2021 program enrolments
  • 2017 to 2021 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

 

Updated: 30 Nov 2022
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