USA: Paper Mills Prefer Separately Collected Recovered Paper

Paper mills using recovered fiber as feedstock, reject the use of recovered paper sorted from “one-bin programs”, reported the Washington-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in February this year.

This is the main result of a survey of paper mill buyers in North America who are responsible for sourcing recovered fiber for their paper mills, about their thoughts and experiences with materials from mixed waste processing centers.

Those centers “advise their residential customers that there is no need to separate recyclables from solid waste (including organics) prior to collection, claiming that the valuable recyclables will be successfully separated in a Material Recovery Facility (MRF)-like environment post-collection,” ISRI gave account. “While there have been other recent studies about mixed waste processing centers, this is the first known study that exclusively solicited views of recovered paper buyers regarding their opinions and views about the ability to successfully use the recyclables sorted from such ‘one-bin’ programs.”

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Some highlights of the survey’s initial results are as follows:

  • 82 percent of the respondents purchase recovered fiber for between one to six mills, and 49 percent of respondents purchase material in the range of more than 100,000 tons of recovered fiber per year, but less than 500,000 tons of recovered fiber per year.
  • Of the respondents, 25 percent purchase “some” material from dirty MRFs, but these mills purchase less than ten percent of their required tonnage from mixed waste processing centers.
  • Of those that purchase recovered fiber from mixed waste processing centers, 70 percent find the quality to be “worse” than most other recovered paper, and 90 percent of those mill buyers have had to “downgrade” or “reject” the paper from the mixed waste processing centers, at a higher rate than recovered paper from “regular” MRFs.
  • 62 percent, or nearly two thirds of those surveyed feel that ISRI specs should contain a statement as part of the paper specifications that sounds: “paper recovered from one-bin programs, separated in mixed-waste processing centers, is not fit for use in USA paper mills.”
  • Of the 75 percent of respondents who do not purchase recovered fiber from mixed waste processing centers, the top eight reasons given, for not purchasing it, were contamination, odor, low quality, exhibit a higher level of prohibitives and outthrows versus what is acceptable, internal quality standards prevent purchasing, too risky, excessive moisture and quality will not meet the mills’ customers’ needs.

According to ISRI, the survey was conducted confidentially via an online questioning between January 11 and January 31, 2016. An independent, third-party research firm was utilized to conduct the study. In order to achieve a high response rate, the survey was limited to less than ten critical questions. All major mill groups using recovered paper in North America were invited to participate in the survey, both members, as well as non-members of ISRI.

Photo: O. Kürth