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February 18, 2002


Curtailing the improper management and disposal of plastic wastes was the topic of conversation for authorities from some 100 governments who met recently in Geneva, Switzerland.

The delegates have adopted a set of technical guidelines "for protecting human health and the environment" from the burning of certain types of plastic in particular, according to a report from the Environment News Service (ENS).

In developing countries, plastics are disposed of not only through land filling, but also via open burning that can release airborne toxins. Wire and cable is also burned to remove the plastic coating from the copper or aluminum wire that is recycled.

Some researchers claim the burning of PVC plastics produce persistent organic pollutants that circulate globally and have been associated with adverse effects in humans. The new technical guidelines have been designed by a group within the Basel Convention to address concerns that some developing countries lack the facilities to cope with piles of plastic wastes of all kinds.

The recycling of wire and cable is getting special attention from the group. Due to the concern of the Basel Convention parties regarding what happens to scrap insulated cables during the process of metal recovery, a guideline on plastic coated cable scrap is being included.

About 30 percent of the scrap cables exported annually from the U.S., Japan and Europe to developing countries is re-used, while some 70 percent is recycled. While the copper and aluminum within has a sale value to smelter operators, the PVC or polyethylene insulation and jacketing is often disposed of, sometimes by being burned away.

It is estimated that some 700 controlled-atmosphere furnaces have been sold worldwide to scrap recyclers who used them to burn off plastic coating. "Furnaces can be connected to appropriate gas cleaning systems for all plastic, such as scrubbers that remove the hydrochloric acid generated when burning PVC," the technical working group notes. Open burning offers no such controls.

It is unclear how rigorously developing nations would enforce a burning ban, and whether it would cause more recycled wire to stay in the U.S.


A Northeastern scrap recycling firm is poised to do more exporting for the next 12 months.

Rensselaer Iron & Steel and Grimmel Industries of Maine, two companies operated by the same ownership group, signed a deal in late January with the Pease Development Authority (PDA) to increase the amount of scrap metal being shipped out of the Port of Portsmouth, N.H.

The PDA’s contract with the scrap metal company will give the Rensselaer, N.Y.-based firm the opportunity to load ships at the port, where they can be filled for exporting. The agreement, a one-year deal, also allows Grimmel and Rensselaer the opportunity to store ferrous scrap on the port’s property.

For much of the previous three decades, John T. Clark and Sons, Portsmouth, N.H., had the contract to ship ferrous scrap from the port. Most recently a company called Bulkloader Inc. shipped from the port, but it stopped doing so in 2000.

According to the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald, Rensselaer plans to bring in about $700,000 in business annually. The contract is for one year, although it can be renegotiated by the parties involved.

"Plans are to start operation at the New Hampshire port as soon as possible," says Tim Garrity, Grimmel general manager. The Grimmel Industries division of Rennselaer will manage the scrap company’s activities at the port.

Scrap metal will be trucked into Portsmouth and stockpiled at the port until it can be loaded on ships for export. Garrity says the bulk of the business will be export, though some domestic trade is possible if the export market slows.

A projected 90,000 tons of scrap metal will move through the port this year, stored on a three-acre site.

The facility is expected to operate 24 hours a day. As many as 20 trucks per day will bring ferrous scrap to the site. The scrap brought to the port will come primarily from New England.

Rensselaer will pay $12,000 annually in scale-house fees, $50,000 per acre in storage fees, plus all applicable terminal charges.

Willamette Agrees to Weyerhaeuser Bid

After fending off a takeover for 14 months, the board of directors of Willamette Industries, Willamette, Ore., has tentatively agreed to a $6.1 billion acquisition by Weyerhaeuser Co., Federal Way, Wash. The January agreement has Weyerhaeuser paying $55.50 per share for its rival.

After accepting the offer, Willamette will end its negotiations to acquire Georgia-Pacific’s building products division.

Weyerhaeuser is the nation’s third-largest timber products company, and Willamette is the seventh biggest.

Willamette operates 105 paper mills. Both companies operate mills that either accept scrap paper or use pulp made from scrap paper.


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