The statutory health insurance companies do not want to monitor a possible general obligation to vaccinate against Covid-19 - and at the beginning of the week they put forward a surprising argument: lack of paper.

According to the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds, there is simply no paper for the approximately 120 million letters that are to be sent to the insured in the event of compulsory vaccination.

"We cannot understand this," says a spokesman for the German paper industry.

"There is no supply bottleneck in the field of office and administration papers."

Rebekah Hahn

Freelance author in the science section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

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Just a few months ago, however, things were different: At that time there had actually been temporary supply bottlenecks because the corona crisis meant that fewer newspapers, letters and advertising brochures and all the more shipping boxes ended up in the waste paper bin.

More paper is now circulating in the recycling cycle again – partly because the trade is printing more print advertising again.

Overall, the German paper industry recorded an increase of nine percent in so-called graphic papers last year.

And paper prices continue to rise.

The general trend that significantly more cardboard is being used than in previous years is also continuing and is also having an impact on paper recycling.

Paper consumption can be seen on the premises of the Meinhardt waste management company in Hofheim-Wallau near Frankfurt.

Plant manager Dennis Göttert leads the way towards a large heap of unsorted waste paper.

The first thing that catches the eye are the brown boxes, which make up a good half of the mountain of waste.

Smaller mailing bags from online retailers can be found among them, as well as bulky furniture packaging and broken moving boxes.

In between are tattered advertising brochures, colorfully printed cereal boxes, cartons of washing powder and a few daily newspapers.

Is the special sorting of waste paper still worthwhile?

Every year, the medium-sized company processes almost 120,000 tons of waste paper at four locations in the Rhine-Main area, about half of which is sorted in Hofheim-Wallau.

"We collect and recycle the contents of the blue bins in the Main-Taunus district," reports Göttert.

But these amounts of waste paper are not enough to operate the paper sorting plant.

Waste paper from the city of Mainz is therefore also sorted on behalf of a paper factory.

In addition, there would be commercial waste that would be delivered directly from companies, petrol stations or discounters.

"The amount of paper in the blue bins has fallen drastically in recent years," explains Göttert.

A few years ago, the waste paper would still have consisted of a good 60 percent paper.

The paper bins from private households are now filled with roughly equal parts paper and cardboard.

"There are probably two reasons for this," says Göttert.

“On the one hand, more parcels are being sent online.

On the other hand, the number of newspaper subscriptions is declining.”

This paper-cardboard ratio has shifted even further since the beginning of the Corona crisis: some daily newspapers were thinner, brochures and flyers were produced in small quantities, and the waste paper from large offices was eliminated.

At the same time, online trade experienced an upswing – and with it parcel shipping.

However, light-colored paper cannot be made from the dark fibers of cardboard.

The prices for waste paper are correspondingly high: on average, they would have doubled in 2021, according to the “Die Papierindustrie” association.