Recyclers and their customers are coping with considerable changes to their business models.
Whether struggling to find markets for new materials or adjusting to new quality standards, panelists at a 2013 Paper Recycling Conference session said they have encountered plenty of challenges in the prior 12 months.
Moderator John D’Ornellas of Federal International, St. Louis, opened the session titled “Trade Patterns,” by citing the business maxim, “You can’t predict the future but you can invest to protect it.”
The session’s panelists pointed to several challenges and changes underway causing their companies to adjust operating procedures. “Public confusion about what items are recyclable leads to higher levels of residuals,” noted Dan Domonoske of Potential Industries Inc., whose company recycles curbside material in New York City and in San Mateo, Calif.
In both cities, old newspapers (ONP) and recovered fiber are comprising a smaller part of the inbound stream, with Domonoske estimating Potential’s inbound scrap paper stream as having fallen 20 percent in New York since hitting a peak in 2008.
Although municipalities are striving to collect alternative materials, they are not necessarily things that Potential can handle profitably. Regarding expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, Domonoske said post-consumer EPS “is very expensive” to bale or ship.
Fellow panelist Kurt McLaughlin of Quincy Recycle in Quincy, Ill., said his company looks at EPS “as a post-industrial material.” He added that industrial generators “have to be committed to landfill diversion,” as recycling the material can incur costs.
Laminated beverage cartons represent another grade more commonly found in material recovery facilities (MRFs). “The markets are developing [for baled cartons]; there is a robust market in Korea,” said Domonoske. While a couple of tissue mills in the U.S. are experimenting with the grade, Domonoske said Potential generally ships its baled cartons to South Korea.
McLaughlin said Quincy Recycle “sees some of the [domestic] tissue mills are now capable of handling that, depending on the conditioning or blending” that recyclers or mill companies can perform.
On the global side, Rogelio Silva of Biopapel International, Dallas, said Mexico is a country that is beginning to generate and collect additional recovered fiber, and the country even exported 300,000 tons of old fiber to China in 2012. The country remains a net importer of recovered fiber, however, as there are virtually “no forests or commercial plantations” in Mexico from which to harvest wood chips.
Regarding China’s Operation Green Fence, McLaughlin said, “We believe it’s the new normal. China’s Green Fence policy is definitely the right direction. It’s made us better and stronger from a company standpoint.”
Domonoske said he expects Green Fence to continue beyond 2013. “The quality of material being exported is going to be improved to avoid shipment rejections,” he added.
The 2013 Paper Recycling Conference Partnered with the PSI Conference was Oct. 16-18 at the Marriott Downtown Chicago Magnificent Mile.