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[greenyes] Single-stream: SP will switch to virgin, CEO threatens
Reprinted with permission of Ken McEntee.
[For discussion of single stream issues, use the search function in the GreenYes archives at]

The Paper Stock Report
Volume 14, Number 2 March 25, 2003 

SP will switch to virgin, CEO threatens

By Ken McEntee

Unless the trend of declining quality of old newspaper (ONP) turns around, SPNewsprint  will consider switching its 100 percent recycled newsprint mill to run on virgin pulp, said Dr .James Burke, the company's CEO. Speaking at this month's Paper Week conference about the decline of fiber quality, Burke said he is concerned about the diminished quality of recovered fiber, particularly with the growth of single-stream collection systems.

"We are considering taking drastic action," Burke said. "We are considering replacing recycling capacity with virgin fiber at Dublin, the most successful recycling mill in the world."

Burke said SP also is looking into forming a procurement company that would also enter into the carting business in some markets.

"The idea is if you don't like the way it is being done, do it yourself," Burke said.

Decline of fiber quality has been an ongoing problem for mills. Newsprint mills have taken a particular hit due to the amount of material they get from curbside collections. Last fall, Canadian ONP buyers issued a new policy aimed at getting tough with suppliers who don't meet quality standards.

Mark Starnes, vice president of recycling for Weyerhaeuser, who moderated a Paper Week session on fiber quality, said the issue is becoming a popular discussion topic.

"Over the past three days I've found myself involved in quite a few impromptu discussions over this issue,"Starnes said. "Depending on who you talk to this is either the greatest or worst thing that ever happened. Many say it will decrease quality and increase costs. Others say it will decrease costs and the quality can be controlled."

Burke, who spoke at  the session, left no doubt about his opinion of single-stream collection.

"I am very concerned about the direction I see the quality of recycled fiber going," Burke said. "Waste haulers are primarily concerned about driving down their costs. Municipalities are concerned with increasing diversion rates. Both of these efforts will kill recycling if they
continue to run unabated as they are."

 Burke called municipal diversion rates the "biggest and most damaging recycling myth."

Where municipalities calculate diversion rates by dividing diverted material by the total amount of trash generated, he said much of the material counted as "diverted" end up in landfills anyhow after contaminants are sorted out of end- users' feedstocks.

"With mixed waste, there is diverted waste in the material that has to be pulled out once again," he said. "The net diversion rate is actually much less than the phony municipal diversion rate. When you reject contaminants, by the nature of the system, you also have to undergo the costs of rejecting some good usable fiber as well. Technology is not available today either in dry processing or wet processing to produce acceptable pulp for quality paper from a very contaminated recovered fiber stream."

The chief culprit in the system is glass. Not only is glass a contaminant for the paper making process, it is also dangerous to workers and expensive to dispose of once it is pulled out of the mills' feed-stock.

"Some recyclables are not recyclable," Burke said. "I take the example of glass. The paper industry cannot pick up the costs of other industry's disposal." 

Further, he said, suppliers of sub par quality fiber should not  rely on the export market to dump off their material. 

"Don't fool yourself into thinking that the Chinese will  take your garbage," Burke said. "China has begun to pare down tariffs on newsprint imports and imports are actually beginning to increase. The main reason is poor domestic quality. Surprise: The Chinese want quality newsprint. Eventually they want to export their newsprint, but they have quality issues to address.

Burke said SP's Dublin machine is the most productive newsprint machine in the world. A machine at SP's Newberg, Ore. mill, which averages about 40 per-cent recycled feedstock, is the most efficient in the world, he said. Overall, SP produces 1.1 million tons of newsprint annually. The company also operates 28 recycling centers that primarily feed the mills.

On the discussion panel with Burke was Steve Ragiel, vice president of Waste Management's Recycle America Alliance (RAA), the recently formed recycling com-pany. Ragiel said the company, which manages more than 6.5 million tons of paper annually, some through single-sort systems, plans to meet with consuming mills this summer to talk about quality concerns.

RAA has 80 recycling plants in the U.S., including 10 single stream-based plants. Ragiel said RAA, which was formed in January and is owned 90 percent by Waste Management and 10 percent by the Peltz Group, is now involved in a 90-day internal review of fiber quality at its facilities. Mills will be invited to join the review after the 90-day period.

Ragiel said the company is looking into improved optical sorting systems to remove glass and plastics from the fiber stream.

Robin Weiner, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), parent of the Paper Stock Industries Chapter (PSI) said PSI and the American Forest and Paper Association (AFPA) have begun a joint dialogue to address quality issues. PSI, which represents scrap paper suppliers and end users, publishes scrap paper grade standards that have been adopted for trade internationally. 

Weiner acknowledged the projected worldwide fiber shortage and noted that there is "a need to grow the amount of recovered fiber without impacting the quality of the fiber. The health of the mills is important to the health of our industry."

Remy Esquenet, AFPA's director of fiber recovery and utilization, said research has shown poor quality fiber coming from single-stream collection programs.

"We don't say single stream can't produce quality fiber but on average they don't," he said.

Research done for AFPA at 18 paper mills showed that single stream collection yields 66 to 100 percent more contaminants in fiber than in dual stream collections.

"On the ISRI specifications the prohibitives for No. 8 news is supposed to be zero," he said. "The stuff that is being sold as No. 7 or No. 8 news doesn't even meet the standards for No. 6."

Meanwhile, Lee Barrett, of the Metro region that includes that city of Portland, Ore., said Burke has a point about "phony" diversion rates, acknowledging that recyclables diverted from the waste stream often container contaminants that are later re-diverted into disposal sites. He said the region established a committee to look at fiber quality issues after finding higher-than-acceptable contamination in single-stream collections. Two area mills are represented on the committee.

News and trends of the paper recycling markets
Visit us at Paper Recycling Online:
The Paper Stock Report
By Ken McEntee
For more information email psr@no.address or call (440) 238-6603.

Bill Sheehan
GrassRoots Recycling Network
P.O. Box 6707, Athens, GA 30604-6707
Tel: 706-613-7121   Fax: 706-613-7123
Email: zerowaste@no.address 

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