Feeding the World

North America’s largest paperstock dealers are providing massive tonnage to nearby mills as well as to mills halfway around the world.

December 29, 2009
Brian Taylor

Paper industry analysts can find plenty of causes for concern when surveying the future of the industry, and some of the current numbers don’t look especially good either.

The recession of 2008 and 2009 has caused North Americans to use significantly less paper than they had previously used. In the first nine months of 2009, newsprint mills shipped out 30 percent less product than they did in the same period in 2008.

The decline in newsprint production provides the most dramatic statistical decline, but other grades of paper also have suffered production cuts, with printing and writing grade shipments off by 19 percent in the first nine months of 2009, according to the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA). (To view the full list, click here.)


As in North America, the economy of Europe in 2009 has been far from stellar and a quick rebound in 2010 is far from certain. This could mean that the paper recycling industry may be one of the few economic sectors where demand will exceed supply.

A panel of speakers at the 2009 European Paper Recycling Conference, held Nov. 16-17 in Brussels, offered predictions on the near future and largely agreed that the global demand for recovered fiber will keep paper recyclers busy and scrambling to collect material in 2010.
Session moderator Bill Moore, Moore & Associates, Atlanta, said a downturn in prices was to be expected by late 2008 after a long upward spell, but that the “magnitude” of the drop in demand and pricing could not be predicted.

Henri Vermeulen of Smurfit-Kappa in the Netherlands noted that within Europe, production of and demand for packaging grades remained in a “solid position” while the newsprint sector was “facing some structural changes.”

Within Europe, Vermeulen said recyclers could expect to see “a lot of flows changing” with new mills in Central and Eastern Europe absorbing recovered fiber that used to be available and “relatively cheap” for recyclers in other parts of Europe.

For the North American papermaking industry, such numbers provide obvious perils. For the North American paper recycling industry, these circumstances also provide challenges, including finding adequate supply for paper mills throughout the world that remain hungry for secondary fiber.

The companies appearing on the 2010 edition of Recycling Today’s list of the 20 Largest Paperstock Dealers in North America have found different ways to overcome this challenge and ship out anywhere from 250,000 to 4 million tons of scrap paper annually to destinations around the world.

Recycling Today last compiled and published this list for its September 2005 edition of the magazine. In the ensuing four years, the majority of the companies that appeared on that list have remained as large-volume paper recyclers, with surprisingly few mergers and acquisitions having taken place among the 20 largest dealers listed in 2005.

That is not to say there have been no changes to the list. One noteworthy merger has been the combination of Allied Waste Industries into Republic Services Inc. The newly expanded Republic Services now manages 78 recycling plants processing enough recovered paper tonnage to rank fifth on the list.

Republic is one of three companies on the list with roots in the solid waste industry, joined by Waste Management Recycle America and the FCR Recycling Division of Casella Waste Systems.

A company that is new to the list is Greenstar NA, the North American subsidiary of an Irish holding company that is both building new processing capacity and has acquired existing recycling companies. Among the companies it acquired was the former Mid America Recycling, which had been the 17th largest paperstock dealer on the 2005 list.

The recycling divisions of paper manufacturing companies have retained their widespread presence on the list of the largest paperstock dealers in North America. When identifying listed companies by their origins, these mill-related companies remain the No. 1 sector on the 2010 list.

Smurfit-Stone Recycling, the Newark Group’s Recycled Fibers Division, the Metro Waste Paper Recovery division of Cascades, Sonoco Recycling, the Caraustar Recovered Fiber Group, SP Recycling Corp., International Paper’s recycling division (consisting largely of assets purchased from Weyerhaeuser in 2008), Abitibi Consolidated Corp. and Rock-Tenn Recycling represent nine mill-owned recycling divisions on this year’s list.

Independent, private paper stock dealers comprise the next largest category, with seven such companies appearing on the 2010 Largest Paperstock Dealers in North America list.

The Allan Co., based in Southern California, remains a leader among the independent firms, with many of its 13 facilities being large-volume plants that collect and process impressive amounts of industrial, commercial and residential scrap paper.

Also based in California, the Sutta Cos. procures its fibers from industrial and commercial sources as well as through confidential document destruction operations.

In Canada, Hanna Paper Recycling Inc. and Canada Fibers Ltd. are two major independent firms in that country that are processing enough tonnage to rank them in the list’s top 15.

Three other privately held companies conduct business in different parts of the United States:

  • Canusa Hershman Recycling Co. runs plants in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, ranking 18th on this year’s list.
  • In the Pacific Northwest, Far West Fibers Group runs suitable tons of scrap paper generated from the industrial, commercial and residential sectors to rank 19th.
  • City Carton Recycling casts its net over the state of Iowa and into some adjoining Midwestern states to finish just behind Far West Fiber Group to rank 20th on the list.

In a category somewhat on its own is the aforementioned Greenstar North America, ranked 10th on the list. Greenstar NA is a subsidiary of a publicly traded conglomerate based in Ireland. The company’s roots are in toll roads, utilities and alternative energy, with recycling and waste management having been identified and pursued as a growth sector by the firm.

As of early 2010, the North American paperstock dealers appearing on this list and those striving to make it onto the list largely find themselves serving a market that can absorb the tons of scrap paper that they collect and process.


Recycling Today received replies from a number of other companies that are processing tonnage that puts them near the top 20 or that has pointed to them having significant market share within their regions.

Among these companies poised to reach a future 20 Largest Paperstock Dealers list are:

  • Western Pacific Pulp & Paper Downey, Calif.;
  • Friedman Recycling Cos., Phoenix;
  • Balcones Recycling Inc.,  Austin, Texas;
  • Recycling Services Inc.,  Chicago;
  • Grossman Environmental Recycling,  Westerville, Ohio;
  • Firstar Fiber,  Omaha, Neb.; and
  • Texas Recycling/Surplus,  Dallas.

This decade, many forest products companies and papermakers have turned up the volume regarding their roles as consumers of recycled paper, eager to assure the public that they are making sound and sustainable environmental choices. Additionally, Asia’s emerging economies continue to soak up recovered paper.

These, for the most part, are favorable conditions for paperstock dealers, though there are concerns about a limit to how many tons can be supplied to these consumers each year.

As problems go, striving to meet vigorous demand for one’s product and having potential buyers around the world competing to do business presents challenges, but probably represents a better situation than a demand void.
There is no predicting whether Asia’s emerging economies will retain their forward momentum and continue to foster larger middle classes. But should that scenario remain intact, the global hunger for scrap paper is poised to keep the companies on the 20 Largest Paperstock Dealers list busy with the daily task of collecting, processing and shipping recovered fiber.

The author is the editor-in-chief of Recycling Today and can be contacted via e-mail at btaylor@gie.net.


Let Us Know

The Recycling Today Media Group is gratified at the response of the companies that were contacted for information to appear on this year’s edition of the 20 Largest Paperstock Dealers in North America list.

When presenting such a list, our hope is that the proper companies processing the highest volume appear on the list and that none have been overlooked.

Unfortunately, if a company either declines to respond to our inquiry or if our inquiry has not reached it, there is a chance we have missed out on some worthy candidates.

If you work for or know of a company that you suspect should be on this list but was not contacted (or did not respond), please let us know and we will make sure to let our readers know. Please contact Brian Taylor via e-mail at btaylor@gie.net.