Lower fibre diet

April 28, 2014
RTGE Staff

The procurement and collection of sufficient recovered fibre remains a challenge for paper recyclers in Europe, as does the ability of the continent’s packers and merchants to send their tonnage to overseas markets.

With a stuttering economy keeping volumes in check and China’s Operation Green Fence providing challenges on the sales side of the equation, less recovered fibre flowed across Europe’s international borders in 2013, according to statistics gathered by Eurostat.

Month-to-month comparisons showed a decrease in recovered fibre trade volumes in 10 out of 12 months in 2013 compared with 2012, according to Eurostat. The agency measures trade between EU nations as well as outside the EU, indicating a likelihood that volumes were down in 2013.

The year closed with downward momentum, as November 2013 traded recovered fibre volume was down some 400,000 tonnes (-12.8%) compared with November 2012 while December trading dropped 140,000 tonnes (-4.8%).

It unfortunately provided a fitting close to 2013, which began in January with a 500,000 tonne drop in recovered fibre trading, marking a 13.9% decrease from the 3.6 million tonnes of recovered fibre traded in the EU in January 2012.

Ranjit Baxi of London-based J&H Sales International Ltd., in a briefing prepared for the April 2014 Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) World Mirror, says recovered fibre export markets to Asia are unlikely to expand in 2014.

“With increasing domestic collections in most Asian countries, the rate of growth in demand and prices for the rest of the year will continue to exert pressure on exports to Asia,” wrote Baxi. He also noted that the OCC (old corrugated containers) grade lost about $15 per tonne in value in early 2014 for delivery to Asian ports.

Paper and board mills in Europe appear poised to help make up for any weakening in Asian demand, with signs of economic recovery pointing to healthier containerboard output levels in Europe.

Also writing in the World Mirror, Reinhold Schmidt of German firm Recycling Karla Schmidt, commented in April, “In contrast to previous years when prices in Western Europe often exceeded those to the east of the continent owing to exports to the Far East, Eastern European countries now lead in price terms because of demand from Poland and Hungary.” Schmidt also referred to the new consumption capacity for recovered fibre at the retrofitted Blue Paper containerboard mill in Strasbourg, France, as a favourable factor for recovered fibre prices in western Germany.

At the Paper Spotlight session at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) 2014 Annual Convention in Las Vegas in April, tapping into potential new sources of recovered fibre was a topic of presentations. Regina Stepanov of MGM Resorts International in Las Vegas described how the hotel, casino and resort company has greatly increased its collection of recovered fibre and other recyclable materials in recent years.

The company determined that it had just a 10% recycling or landfill diversion rate in 2007, according to Stepanov. Inspired in part by a 93% landfill diversion rate in the construction of the CityCenter complex in Las Vegas, MGM created its “Green Advantage” program shortly thereafter to improve upon its overall 10% rate. Because of space limitations, the company largely collects its paper and containers along with other trash in waste bins and then conducts a sorting process in “back of house” areas, Stepanov said.

Such methods have helped MGM increase its recycling rate to 52.8% as of 2013, said Stepanov, with some 62,000 tons of materials recovered each year. Materials diverted include carpeting and composted food scraps as well as recovered fibre.