Los Angeles’ plastic bag ban went into effect at the start of the year. It currently applies to large retailers in the city that sell groceries. In July the ban will expand to include drug stores, smaller grocers and convenience stores. Under the ban, grocery store customers must bring reusable bags with them to carry home their produce and pantry staples or purchase paper bags at the store for 10 cents each.
According to the ordinance, “The city of Los Angeles spends millions of dollars annually on prevention, cleanup and other activities to abate litter, and it has a significant interest in protecting its residents from the negative impacts caused by plastic single-use carryout bags.”
Retailers who violate the ban face fines ranging from $200 to $500. Fines are assessed for each day a violation occurs or is allowed to continue.
Other California cities with similar bans include West Hollywood and Santa Monica. Cities considering bag bans include Dallas and Cambridge, Mass.
While the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a group of American plastic bag manufacturers, has been fighting these ordinances, one plastic bag manufacturer has introduced a reusable plastic bag made from 50-percent-recycled agricultural plastics that are generated nearby.
Encore Recycling, Salinas, Calif., is processing agricultural plastics into pellets that its sister company, Command Packaging, Vernon, Calif., is manufacturing into reusable plastic bags that are designed to meet the requirements of single-use plastic bag bans. In the case of the Los Angeles ban, reusable bags must have a minimum lifetime of 125 uses, which means they are capable of carrying a minimum of 22 pounds 125 times over a distance of at least 175 feet. Such bags must have a minimum volume of 15 liters and, if made of plastic, be at least 2.25 millimeters thick. (Turn to page 84 for a profile of Command Packaging and Encore Recycling titled “Sustainable choices.”)
While Command has responded to the bans by offering a reusable choice, the company’s CEO Pete Grande says, “Hopefully, the local and state governments that have decided to vilify certain plastics will finally embrace the truth that plastic is an extremely valuable, and recyclable, commodity. Once they do, the narrative can move away from bans to promoting policies that create opportunity for products to be designed to be recyclable as well as to be made from recycled plastics.
“I am optimistic that states like California will begin to create policies that create pathways for a plastic recycling infrastructure by encouraging the selection of products that are made from recycled materials.”
Many plastic bag manufacturers, no doubt, share Grande’s hope. However, momentum seems to be on the side of bans currently, meaning the American Progressive Bag Alliance and bag manufacturers such as Command still have their work cut out for them.
In an industry that is constantly evolving, it is common for recycling company owners to want to invest in the latest and greatest equipment. Advancements in technology help to introduce faster, stronger and smarter machines into the market. But while the new touchscreens and shiny buttons look nice, they do not always offer more benefits than those features of an earlier model.
“Advancements in manufacturing are not always advancements,” says Cory Tomczyk, president and owner of iRow, a waste and recycling collection company in Mosinee, Wis.
Tomczyk, who also serves as president-elect of the Paper Stock Industries (PSI) chapter of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI), has been buying used balers for more than two decades. He runs a used baler in his operations, but he mostly buys balers for his customers. Tomczyk says he has purchased more than 20 used balers, generally vertical press balers, for customers over the years.
He primarily shops used, he says, because he likes to save money, which he definitely has done. Tomczyk predicts he has saved “thousands and thousands” of dollars over the years by buying used balers.
Tomczyk explains, “When you look at the cost of a new vertical press, and it is over $10,000, if I can find the shell of one in a metals scrap yard and put a couple grand of parts and pieces into it, I can save $5,000 easily on just one baler.”
He also works with the mindset that newer does not always equate to better. Tomczyk’s favorite baler at his waste and recycling collection company is a used 1972 American Baler single-ram horizontal baler that he bought from a equipment dealer in St. Louis. The baler is attached to iRow’s shredding system and is used exclusively for paper, Tomczyk says.
Whether a baler was built in 1972 or 2014, the basic task that the machine is performing hasn’t changed much, he says. Therefore, he says he does not see the need to buy something new for the simple fact that it is new.
“I’ve had people take out perfectly operating balers for no good reason other than they thought it was old, so they got a new one that lights up when it’s full. It still does the same job,” Tomczyk says. “There are things in that 1972 baler that are vastly different than what they build now, but it’s still taking things and squeezing them, and that’s all I need it to do.”
He continues, “It does amaze me how people will look at a baler and say, ‘It’s 25 years old and making some nice bales.’ But they get rid of it. If you want something pretty, paint it.”
The longtime buyer of used balers provides some tips for those interested in shopping used.
Dealers and sellers
Tomczyk purchased his first used baler in 1993 and since then he has built strong relationships with scrap sellers. He suggests forming ties with scrap yard workers as well as with used equipment sellers. Tomczyk buys the separate frames, parts and pieces and puts in the extra work to bring an old baler back to life.
Where the sellers see junk, Tomczyk sees potential. “A used equipment guy might look at that baler from 1972 and say, ‘Who’s going to buy that?’” Tomczyk says. “They don’t want to put the time and effort into it, but I will.”
There are used equipment dealers who have “outstanding rebuild departments and a wealth of knowledge” that Tomczyk recommends buyers reach out to when confused. J-Mec, Lake Mills, Wis., a leading distributor, installer and service provider of waste and recycling equipment has been that go-to source for Tomczyk when he has questions, he says.
Tomczyk also spends quite a bit of time searching for used equipment websites on the Internet. While he does not get the face-to-face connection that he has with the local scrap and used equipment sellers, he says he finds many parts online.
In 2005, when a computer processing unit, an Allen Bradley SLC 50, stopped working in his 1972 baler, Tomczyk says he learned that the baler manufacturer had quit providing support for that older model. He then looked online for a replacement for the computer, which manages the sequence of events that make up a baler’s cycle, and found a program reader on eBay.
After contacting a nearby professional who writes programs for mechanical equipment, Tomczyk says the man copied the sequence of events and got the baler running again. That entire process was still much cheaper than buying a brand new machine, he points out.
“An electrician reinstalled the computer, so now it is a 1972 baler with a 2005 brain. It’s beautiful and runs every day. It’s my favorite baler,” Tomczyk says.
He recommends buying used balers that still have parts available in the market. Tomczyk says he is not afraid to manufacture baler parts if needed, however, and he has done just that by asking local machine shops to copy a specific part.
Skills and sefety
While recyclers can use several outlets when searching for a used baler, Tomczyk stresses the importance of understanding at least three key components about a baler before starting the shopping process.
First, anyone considering buying used balers must have someone on staff who is a good welder, Tomczyk says. Steel does wear, but it can be repaired by welding different parts and pieces together, he says. Being able to reweld cracked frames is a necessary skill to have when buying used.
“You can reweld steel if something is really badly cracked and put new steel in,” Tomczyk explains. “Steel hasn’t changed that much. If the frame is true and the welder is good, you’re fine there.”
Tomczyk also advises buyers to ensure they are familiar with a baler’s hydraulic system. The “heart and soul of the machine,” Tomczyk says understanding the hydraulic system is imperative.
Guaranteeing valves work and testing pumps using a hydraulic test bench to find out what they are producing in terms of pressure are good places to start, Tomczyk suggests. If the hydraulic cylinder is leaking, iRow has someone rebuild it, Tomczyk says. The company also always replaces all hydraulic hoses on a machine, he says.
“You have hoses that last 15 years and never blow and some last a month, it depends on where the pressure points build,” Tomczyk says. “As a general rule, replace the hoses; odds are greatly increased that it is going to last longer.”
Finally, it is crucial that workers know how the baler’s electronics and safety features function, he says. Tomczyk and his team replace all safety interlocks on each machine, which is cheaper than having an accident later, he says.
“You need to be able to understand the reason for safety interlocks on equipment and how to make sure they are functioning properly. If you don’t do that, nothing else matters,” Tomczyk says. “If you don’t understand the electronics or how to make safety features work again, then you’re going to have to hire someone.”
However, he cautions that hiring someone else to do a job that you should already know how to do takes away from the initial purpose of buying used anyway. “If you’re going to hire someone to do it, you might not end up saving money, and you might end up with something that’s not quite right,” he says.
Tomczyk continues, “Understanding baling and how balers work is an art in itself. If you have a good understanding of that, you might find an older baler that might work just as good, or in some instances better, than new ones.”
Tomczyk has purchased some baler failures that he couldn’t fix. He says he bought a few vertical frames, inspected, rebuilt and repainted them only to have the baler’s back crack from being stressed. These failures, however, did not thwart his thriftiness.
Tomczyk recognizes that the machines have advanced—new valves can increase baler speed and updated user interfaces can improve interaction—but he prefers to buy used. And while new purchases come with new warranties, Tomczyk says his assurance in his iRow team is enough warranty.
“My warranty is my confidence in my maintenance shop and my guys,” he says.
The author is associate editor of Recycling Today magazine and can be reached at email@example.com.
Only one in five Americans consistently recycles bathroom items, according to a report commissioned by the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Cos., which has launched a campaign to educate people about recyclable bathroom items. The Care to Recycle campaign is intended to increase awareness and serve as a reminder to recycle containers from the bathroom, says Paulette Frank, vice president of sustainability for the Johnson & Johnson Family of Consumer Co., headquartered in New Brunswick, N.J.
The Care to Recycle initiative is hosted on Tumblr at www.caretorecycle.com and includes an informative short video, “Smallest Room.” Each time the video is shared online from Nov. 21, 2013, to April 20, 2014, Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 to Keep America Beautiful, Stamford, Conn., which will help to provide recycling bins for schools across the U.S., giving teachers the tools they need to educate students about recycling.
Frank says the company hopes the campaign leads to “a change in the behavior of throwing recyclable bathroom items in the trash and a greater awareness that we can all contribute to a healthy planet.”
From TV to tile
Tile manufacturer Fireclay Tile, San Jose, Calif., has created a first-of-its-kind glass tile made of the screens from CRT (cathode ray tube) devices, according to the company’s Kickstarter page. Fireclay Tile says it surpassed its goal to raise $10,000 to purchase molds that help it recycle old CRT screens into glossy new tiles with $16,080 raised through the crowd funding platform.
Owner Paul Burns created the Debris Series Recycled Tile to focus on sustainability and recycled materials, he says on Fireclay’s Kickstarter page. CRTs comprise nearly half of all electronics ready for end-of-life management, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The CRT tile, its light gray color named phosphor, is made of glass provided from the Santa Clara, Calif.-based electronics recycling and IT asset management firm ECS Refining. Fireclay then begins a multistep crushing process that produces glass particles small enough to melt when exposed to heat.
For more, visit www.fireclaytile.com/blog/full/kickstarter-project-made-with-crt.
Next big thing
Three Squared Inc., the Detroit-based, forward-thinking real estate development company that was highlighted in the May/June 2013 issue of Recycling Today’s sister publication, Construction & Demolition Recycling (www.cdrecycler.com/cdr0513-building-trends-shipping-containers.aspx), has appointed industry veteran Eric Lloyd Wright & Associates to lead its multiple projects, the company says.
Three Squared builds, among other projects, residential and commercial buildings from cargo containers. The company is working on a Rosa Parks condo complex, the developer’s flagship project in Detroit representing the first multifamily dwelling constructed in the U.S. from retired shipping containers.
Eric Lloyd Wright, grandson of renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, says, “I am thrilled to join Three Squared and work in a brand new arena that will truly revolutionize the building industry. Given the significant impact this construction approach will have on future generations, our architectural and oversight work with the company will be a distinguished part of my legacy—one that I am especially proud and excited about.”
He adds, “This proprietary method of construction is the ‘next big thing’ in the U.S. building industry and it will have an enduring impact.”
For more information, visit www.threesquaredinc.com.
Do you have a unique recycling-focused story? Please send a press release to Megan Workman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reliable demand from domestic steel mills, coupled with winter weather supply disruptions, helped keep ferrous scrap prices stable in the January buying period despite continued disinterest from overseas buyers.
The ferrous scrap export indices prepared by American Metal Market (AMM) for January were calculated using very few transactions, the publication reported, as buyers in Turkey and South Korea stayed out of the market. Reasons cited for the lack of overseas interest included political and energy market turmoil in Turkey and unfavorable currency exchange rates in South Korea.
Fortunately for scrap processors, steel mill buyers in the U.S.—especially those in colder regions—continued to make purchases to ensure their mills have suitable inventory to keep running through the winter months.
AMM cited a dwindling supply of obsolete scrap in the cold Midwest and Northeast as the reason shredded and heavy melting steel (HMS) grades made greater gains in January compared with prime grades.
For the second month in a row, auto shredding plant operators suffered from a lack of supply but benefitted from higher bids to purchase what they produced, with the result that shredded scrap closed to within $6 per ton in value of prime grades.
While the mill buying price for shredded scrap on the AMM Midwest Index rose by nearly 6 percent in January to slightly less than $439 per ton, No. 1 busheling rose just 1.9 percent in value to slightly less than $445 per ton.
Bitterly cold weather in early January kept peddlers home, slowed the pace of construction to a crawl and significantly reduced scrap flows and processing output at outdoor scrap yards throughout the Northeast and Midwest.
The decline in obsolete scrap and the narrowing of the price spread between obsolete grades and prime grades is creating anticipation that mills will shift their sights to the purchase of prime grades in February.
On the domestic demand side, 2014 is starting out as a mirror image of the previous year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), Washington, D.C. The group reports that in the week ending Jan. 11, 2014, domestic raw steel production was 1.830 million tons, almost exactly in line with the 1.832 million tons produced the week ending Jan. 11, 2013.
In the first part of January 2014, U.S. mills operated at a 76.3 percent capacity rate, also roughly in line with the 76.5 percent rate from early 2013.
Longer term, for domestic steel and ferrous scrap demand to improve, automotive sales will have to continue apace while activity levels in the construction sector will have to show greater improvement.
National construction figures for the final few months of 2013 seemed to be pointing to favorable news for the sector. “Total construction spending increased between October and November  and for the year amid growing private sector demand,” the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), based in Arlington, Va., reported in early January, citing an analysis of recent U.S. Census Bureau data.
Tight spending controls in most U.S. states, however, continue to lead to declining public sector expenditures, notes the AGC.
“The nonresidential construction spending figures are more positive than they appear, with most categories now positive year-over year,” says Ken Simonson, AGC chief economist. “The outlook appears favorable for many types of private nonresidential and multifamily construction but remains flat or negative for public spending.”
Highway and street construction, the largest public construction spending category, increased 4.6 percent during the 12-month time frame ending Nov. 30, 2013, Simonson noted.
Ferrous scrap processors and brokers have their eyes on several parts of the world to try to determine when or if the export market will rebound.
According to the World Steel Association (Worldsteel), Brussels, as of November 2013 America’s leading export destinations were posting mixed steel output numbers. Through the first 11 months of 2013, Turkey’s output was up more than 3 percent compared with the year before. However, both Taiwan (-2.9 percent) and South Korea (-3.6 percent) were on pace to produce less steel in 2013 than the year before.
Worldsteel’s statistics show that China, the fourth-largest non-NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) overseas buyer of U.S. ferrous scrap in 2012, continues to produce as much steel as ever, though the financial press in that country consistently writes about overcapacity and threatened shutdowns of older, polluting mills.
If the statistics are accurate, China’s major steel companies are continuing to produce more than enough steel to make up for any shortfall created by the shuttering of older, high-emissions-level plants in cities or provinces striving for cleaner air.
Additional RMDAS (Raw Material Data Aggregation Service) pricing from Pittsburgh-based Management Science Associates (MSA) is available on the Recycling Today website at www.RecyclingToday.com/RMDAS/Default.aspx.
The American Metal Market (AMM) Midwest Ferrous Scrap Index is calculated based on transaction data received that are then tonnage-weighted and normalized to produce a final index value. The AMM Scrap Index includes material that will be delivered within 30 days to the mill. Spot business included after the 10th of the month will not be included. The detailed methodology is available at www.amm.com/pricing/methodology.html. The AMM Ferrous Scrap Export Indices are calculated based on transaction data received that are then tonnage-weighted and normalized to produce a final index value. The detailed methodology is available at www.amm.com/pricing/methodology.html.
Whether it was better-than-expected orders or difficult weather throughout much of the United States that cut into the supply of old corrugated containers (OCC) in early January, OCC markets have started 2014 with a fairly heady run in terms of demand, driven primarily by buying from domestic mills.
Although OCC pricing remains stable as of mid-January, it could soon reflect this growth in demand, as offshore mills could be re-entering the North American market in the near term.
One West Coast broker describes OCC demand as good as of mid-January, with more domestic mills looking to buy available tonnage. “Domestic mills are being very aggressive right now,” the broker adds.
While OCC prices for January purchases haven’t really moved up, sources say they expect a push for higher prices in February, especially if Chinese mills come into the market more aggressively after the Lunar New Year Jan. 31.
The Chinese New Year always plays a factor in paper stock markets early in the year, and some recycled board mills in China have been taking downtime recently in anticipation of the holiday. However, the market looks promising in the near future once the holiday celebrations have concluded.
One possible area of concern for companies that export paper stock to China is the potential requirement to provide video of their loading processes to customs officials. Two exporters, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, say China’s central government is discussing this policy right now, which could create more problems for paper stock exporters (as well as many other shippers of recyclables).
Several other brokers say they have not yet heard that Chinese customs officials will require such video. However, these sources add that more pictures are being requested by officials, which ultimately slows down the overall shipping process.
Even with this potential change to container loading requirements for export orders, the outlook for OCC remains favorable. A combination of better domestic markets and a pickup in offshore orders could push OCC prices higher by $5 to $10 per ton in the early part of the year, according to sources.
New domestic capacity additions in the eastern U.S. should positively affect OCC demand in that region as well. Cascades Greenpac recycled paperboard mill in Niagara Falls, N.Y., which opened last summer, as well as Atlantic Packaging’s recently reopened Whitby, Ontario, mill should be seeking material to feed their paperboard machines.
The Atlantic Packaging mill in Niagara Falls closed last year in light of soft newsprint demand. However, following a technology upgrade enabling the plant to produce recycled paperboard products such as linerboard, the mill reopened in the fall of 2013 and has begun ramping up production.
SP Fiber Technologies also is in the process of converting a newsprint machine at its Newberg, Ore., paper mill to produce packaging paper. The company says it closed its PM5 newsprint machine Jan. 15 and expects to start producing packaging material in the first half of this year.
According to one source, domestic paperboard mills “are taking everything they can find. We are seeing a $5 per ton increase for OCC.”
Another broker says he sees positive indicators for OCC in the Southwest, as well, with prices possibly climbing by as much as $20 per ton over the next several months. He adds that pricing may soften in February, though it should be short-lived. He speculates that perhaps as soon as this spring there will be a wholesale improvement in the paper stock market. “All grades (of recovered paper) will be stronger this year,” he says.
While domestic markets for OCC have been better, domestic markets for mixed paper and old newspapers (ONP) have been static recently, with one source saying this holding pattern has been in play for several months.
One of the issues has been the practice of blending ONP with mixed paper, which is exacerbating an overall decline in the generation of ONP, according to some sources. Many sources add that No. 8 deinked ONP has become harder to source. This is leaving some consumers of ONP No. 8 in a difficult situation.
Looking at high-grades of paper stock, markets for pulp substitutes remain in good shape. Prices are holding firm for the material, and paper stock dealers say the printer market has strengthened recently. This newfound strength should offer a boost to many deinking grades, such as coated book stock and manifold white ledger, sources say.
An improvement in the printing sector would be positive news for these paper stock grades, as a growing number of printing companies have gone out of business recently.
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