ISRI2017: Aligning more together

ISRI2017: Aligning more together

The third annual PSI Summit SPECtacular focused on figuring out policies and percentages.

May 5, 2017

Moisture is a problem for recovered paper stock bales, and while using a guideline proves to be beneficial, figuring out the allowable moisture percentage is puzzling, said speakers at the third annual PSI Summit SPECtacular. The summit for the Paper Stock Industries (PSI) Chapter of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) was held during ISRI2017, the annual convention of the Washington-based association, which took place in New Orleans April 22-27.

The event provided a forum for packers, brokers and consumers of recovered paper stock to discuss and amend the preamble to the paper stock section of the ISRI “Scrap Specifications Circular.” Other topics covered during the PSI Summit SPECtacular included shipping rules; definitions of prohibitives and outthrows; new “zero tolerance” categories; rules for deductions, downgrades and claims; and the elimination of separate rules for export and domestic transactions. 

In the session Adopting a Moisture Policy with a Panel from Four Different Viewpoints, four speakers offered their viewpoints on guides for measuring moisture in recovered paper bales. PSI members also discussed what the endorsed percentage should be for moisture content in bales of recovered paper stock.

To kick off the session, Johnny Gold, president of The Gold Group Recycling Consultants LLC, Swampscott, Massachusetts, and chairman of Washington-based American Forest & Paper Association’s (AF&PA’s) Paper Recovery Sector, said the AF&PA has a moisture guideline. Available here, the guide says it “is presented as a way to improve the consistency and accuracy of measuring moisture in bales of recovered paper.”

Gold said the industry needs to improve its consistency when it comes to moisture in baled paper. “A protocol needs to be set up on both sides of the equation,” Gold said. 

The AF&PA guidelines outline the need to use a calibrated instrument or tool to test bales. The two most common options are a surface measurement tool and a probe-type device, Gold noted. 

Linda Leone, regional vice president for recycling for the Northeast U.S. and eastern Canada at WestRock Co., Norcross, Georgia, said the company has a moisture program, following the guidelines of AF&PA “for the most part.” WestRock has 28 paper mills, with 22 consuming recovered fiber. Old corrugated containers (OCC) is 86 percent of the company’s consumption, she said.  

However, mills are not mandated to check for moisture, Leone said. “But they can’t take deductibles if they don’t test,” she reassured. 

While some mills test every load, others receive, say, 50 bales and test 15 of them, Leone said. “Visual inspection is 95 percent what we do.” 

WestRock’s moisture limit in recovered paper bales is 12 percent. The company uses a probing tool to test for moisture. “These are limits we set at our mills, not by AF&PA,” Leone clarified. 

“How do we become more aligned together?” she asked the audience of PSI members. 

Speaker Kari Talvola of FibreTrade, Burlingame, California, and chairwoman of the PSI Specifications Committee, said her company gets a moisture claim nearly every day from overseas buyers. Some of these claims can be a result of human error, she said. The specific location of where measuring tools are stored matters, she said, as well as their adjustment settings. In addition, ensuring loaders are trained on how to use the probe or surface measurement tools is important. 

Talvola said, “A lot of mills we use use random computer selection of what bales to test.”

Talvola said ways to spot moisture include smell, weight discrepancies and visual sweating of containers, as they were “in transit for 30-90 days,” meaning this type of moisture can be expected, she said.

Todd Burnstein of Seattle-based Recology CleanScapes said his company “gets moisture claims a lot.” The company, which tests every load, uses PSI’s specifications. Recology CleanScapes has 12 material recovery facilities (MRFs), and will hit $1 billion in sales this year, Burnstein said. 

He pointed out that with the wet climate in Seattle, “8-10 percent is moisture anyway” in bales of secondary fiber. He noted that while most recovered fiber bales are stored indoors in Seattle due to the frequent rainfall, in Los Angeles, bales are typically stored outdoors. Beyond storage, while the tools suggested to measure moisture in these bales are “fairly accurate” he recognizes they’re “not perfect” and they do break.

There was a universal consensus among PSI members that there should be a number correlated to moisture levels in recovered fiber bales. What that exact number is wasn’t completely established during the Summit, with many agreeing it should be around 12 percent; Europe’s is 10 percent.

“What’s the right number?” Leone asked.

The Summit included breakout sessions where members talked in smaller groups about what the moisture policy should be. Some groups suggested an overall 12 percent moisture level, while another group suggested that the moisture levels should be grade-specific: 12 percent for OCC, 15 percent for old newspapers and mix, and 10 percent for deinking grades.

The PSI Specifications team proposed changes to the rules governing the purchase and sale of recovered fiber for domestic and export transactions. These amendments included small changes in how items were worded to larger amendments, such as ensuring that wax remains listed as a prohibitive as well as providing a proof of documentation, such as with photos. Members agreed that some items in the preamble needed to be listed more generally, including layman’s terms in descriptions. They also agreed that domestic and export transactions and moisture policies should be dealt with separately. 

PSI is working on updating the preamble amendments discussed during the Summit, and will issue a summary once it’s complete.

During the Paper Summit Luncheon, Thursday, April 27, Recycling Today Editor Brian Taylor discussed the incoming Trump administration and how it could affect the secondary fiber industry. Adina Adler, senior director of governmental relations for ISRI, served as the moderator. 

Taylor focused on how there is “a lot of speculation” regarding where the new administration will lead, and the “mix emotions of Donald Trump.” With the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Taylor said this drew some skepticism. However, large paper companies, including containerboard producer Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Ltd. and Lee & Man Paper Manufacturing Ltd., both based in Hong Kong, as of late February, “were not concerned the trade policy would affect their businesses.”

In China, he said incoming mixed paper loads are being scrutinized more heavily than before, which will have an effect on domestic players in the recovered paper stock sector. Policies in Beijing, Taylor said, will most likely have more of an effect on U.S. businesses than those coming out of Washington. 

Adler said of the effects so far of National Sword, “Paper is feeling the crunch now, but plastics will get the brunt of it.” 

ISRI2017 was in at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans April 22-27, 2017.