2013 Paper Recycling Conference: Getting in Ship Shape

Paper mills have adjusted to commingled collection but they would still welcome higher-yield bales.

October 17, 2013
Recycling Today Staff
Conferences & Events Paper

Contaminants are in the eye of the beholder and can vary greatly at different paper mills, but none of the mill buyers on a panel at the Paper Recycling Conference in Chicago expressed pleasure with the volumes of prohibitives they are seeing.

“Diminishing quality has become a large concern,” stated Ryan Anderson, a recovered fiber buyer for SCA Tissue, Menasha, Wis. “Brown fibers and glass and red ink are contaminants to us when we’re making a white product,” he noted.

Peg Wander, who procures fiber for linerboard producer Liberty Paper International, Becker, Minn., told attendees, “We need the long fiber material, so for us, contaminants can be short-fiber boxboard or newsprint.”

John Lucini of SP Fiber Technologies (SPFT), Newberg, Ore., has the opposite problem when procuring fiber for the three newsprint paper machines owned by his company. “Our dilemma is we see a lot of brown fiber in our incoming material,” he commented. “We’re making a product that wants to be brighter and brighter [and] that brown fiber does not go away.”

According to panelist Johnny Newsome of packaging maker Sonoco, Hartsville, S.C., “Waxed coated board and other prohibitives are now more common than ever before” at many of his company’s mills.

Although producers like Sonoco, SCA, SPFT and Liberty Paper would like to see pure and clean bales, they have invested in mill technology to be able to use the commingled postconsumer stream. “When we do bale audits and break them open, some customers are right at about 5 percent [contaminants], some are at 7 percent and when it gets to 10 percent we have to have a conversation,” said Wander.

Anderson of SCA said his company has invested $50 million in equipment in Menasha to be able to pulp material with higher contamination levels. “It has become more difficult to remove [contaminants], but the way our mill was configured five years ago we could not have even handled today’s material.”

Newsome, whose company also manages 28 recycling plants, says Sonoco is intensifying its efforts to sort out the commingled stream. “We’ve added sorters and we’ve slowed our lines down, and the quality is better as a result,” he stated. While some of these measures were designed as a response to China’s Operation Green Fence, Newsome said, “I think U.S. mills will benefit also."

Anderson of SCA expressed optimism for that same scenario. “I think we’re to the point where [quality improvement] has started to happen. Green Fence has made it easier to go back to the suppliers and hold their feet to the fire.”

Another topic of discussion at the session was the wording of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) No. 8 News specification and its ability to reflect the reality in the market. “You have to remember those specs are a guideline. We’re definitely not getting material from our suppliers that matches that spec,” said Lucini.

The 2013 Paper Recycling Conference Partnered with the PSI Conference was Oct. 16-18 at the Marriott Downtown Chicago Magnificent Mile.