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[GreenYes] Re: Recycled paper in trouble?

Hi, Peter,

Those are thoughtful issues that you raise.

Re: Newsprint - 20 years ago, the paper mills didn't want glossy paper like
magazines and catalogs because they buy fiber by weight and about half the
weight of coated papers is the coating, not fiber. But then there was a
breakthrough in newsprint deinking that then allowed them to make use of the
clay coating to help coalesce the inks and separate them from the fibers.
That's when newsprint mills started wanting magazines and other coated
papers, and many now use them for 20-30% of their feedstock. So this, I
think, is a good thing. Most magazines, btw, have a groundwood base paper,
which is similar to newsprint types of fibers.

In general, newsprint mill people have told me that they can use some
office paper, but not an overwhelming amount. In the past, using office
paper has not been cost-effective because it costs more than ONP. Maybe that
is changing, as it arrives as part of mixed paper. But also, newsprint is a
rather fragile type of fiber, pulped in a different kind of process from the
kraft pulp that most office paper and junk mail is made from. My
understanding is that the drum pulpers that many newsprint mills now have
are designed to be particularly effective with the groundwood fibers in ONP
and that the kraft fiber doesn't do so well in them because its strength
keeps it from breaking down as easily as the newsprint. So, although the
bleached kraft fiber can help increase the brightness level, people at
newsprint mills have told me they don't want huge amounts of it. I know that
OR and WA have some particularly high-tech newsprint mills, so I should
check to see if that has changed for them. My guess is that they would get
about all they want from the kraft fiber that incidentally ends up in mixed
paper from curbside programs, such as junk mail from people's homes.

Meanwhile, I still think that diverting office paper to a newsprint mill
is not the best choice environmentally. The office paper is mostly made from
kraft pulp, which is much more environmentally demanding than newsprint, so
returning it to make new kraft paper saves the most resources. Once it's
used to make newsprint, it's lost to most printing/writing mills. (There is
a little bit of P/W manufacturing that makes office and printing paper from
groundwood sources such as newsprint. It's possible that that could become a
more common source for products like junk mail but that's not the case yet.)
Another limit on newsprint mills' use of office paper is that many say the
type of deinking they use is not designed to remove copier toner, which is
really plasticized carbon that is melted into the fibers. Office paper
collections are so predominantly high grade papers, it seems it should be
feasible to collect them in a way that keeps them pretty clean to start
with, suitable for high grade deinking mills, which do have the right
technology to remove copier toner.

Which brings me to the tissue mills - Both tissue and P/W mills use the same
high grade pulp. (Paperboard mills also often use it to create the printing
surface for some packaging.) The pulp for tissue can usually have a bit more
variability - maybe not quite as bright, maybe a bit more groundwood,
depending on the mill and its products. But I would think OR would want to
keep its office paper separate in particular because it has a number of
tissue mills that use recycled fiber.

It's an interesting question whether to use recycled pulp for P/W papers or
tissue. Fortunately, it hasn't been an either/or situation, there has been
plenty for tissue products and enough for what's been used in P/W to date.
Now, as it's important to increase the recycled content in P/W, I would want
to see more deinking investments and more offices starting recycling
collections than take any away from tissue, which could still use more,
particularly in consumer products.

It's true that using office paper for tissue also eliminates the further
recycling lifetimes those fibers would have had if used for P/W papers,
since the tissue products aren't subsequently recycled (thank goodness). But
the tissue market is relatively small compared to P/W, and if there is any
place where it seems we should be minimizing using natural resources, at the
top of the list seems to me to be immediately disposable tissue products.

So yes, I think that office paper into newsprint is downcycling, although I
recognize that some is going to get there from curbside collections anyway.
I just think we should not be deliberately sending office paper to be made
into newsprint (or packaging), but save it for the products that have to
have high grade recovered fiber sources. These include both P/W papers and
tissue products, and I think that there is enough, especially if we step up
office paper collection programs and get the shredders more on board, to
supply both, plus some of the other printing applications that use it.

There's also a chicken-and-egg issue here. We need more high grade deinking
in order to increase the share of P/W papers that have recycled content, and
to increase the percentage of recycled content in this sector overall. But
any manufacturer considering the feasibility of a deinking mill reasonably
asks, "Where are the customers and how can I be sure I'll be able to get
enough good quality fiber?" That's why it's still so important for paper
purchasers to emphatically specify recycled paper, so that manufacturers can
see there's demand. With most people apparently believing all the paper
already has recycled content so they don't ask for it, I believe there is an
implicit demand that people want recycled content in their paper but there
is not enough of an explicit message to the manufacturers. Fortunately,
major companies like Random House, Dell, Staples, Kinkos, Citigroup,
Scholastic, Office Depot, Bank of America, and many others are making
long-term commitments to help prove the market. (Much more is still needed.)

So then the question becomes the fiber source. With so much office paper
still uncollected, I'm convinced there is plenty that could supply more
deinking mills. But if your office paper is going to newsprint, it's not
available to increase the P/W supply, where it will have even more enviro
impact. If you had no high-grade mills in the Pacific Northwest, local
newsprint markets might be the best choice. But you have both recycled
tissue and P/W mills, so it seems important to be prepared to be able to
provide high grade recovered paper such as office paper so that a new
deinking mill could be a possibility there. I realize that's still a future
proposition, but it would be good not to preclude that choice, also.

See - this is also a dance between the just-in-time reality of recycling
collection/processing/manufacturing, and the need to also be planning for
the future we want, and I know how important it is to address the
here-and-now. I'm making the case that we need to be operating more on BOTH
the current and the future planning levels - something I know that OR is
already pretty good about anyway.


Susan Kinsella
Executive Director
San Francisco, CA
Phone - 415/561-6526
E-mail Fax - 509/756-6987
susan@no.address, seek@no.address
skype - susanekinsella

on 4/19/07 4:25 PM, Peter Spendelow at spendelow.peter@no.address

> Susan,
> Thanks for the good information. I'm curious as to how you would view
> the major trend in recycling that we have seen in Oregon over the last
> decade.
> In Oregon, our large newsprint mills have converted their cleaning and
> deinking system to better make use of junk mail and magazines. Most
> Oregon curbside programs collect all grades of paper mixed together.
> Material recovery facilities attempt to separate out the corrugated
> cardboard, cereal box board, and other unbleachable paper, but the
> white and colored ledger, coated papers, magazines, and other
> compatible papers remain in with the newspaper and are sold to our
> paper mills as newsprint. More and more now, commercial office paper
> is also going the same route. The newsprint mills like office paper
> because it whitens their product and probably provides strength
> benefits too.
> Do you view using office paper and junk mail to make whiter newspaper
> to be a downgrading of the fiber? Do you think we should be providing
> incentives or educational programs to direct office paper to go new
> office paper production? How about the use of office paper to make
> bleached white toilet and tissue paper. A fair chunk of our office
> paper is recycled into bleached white toilet paper, and that use seems
> to well make use of the properties of office paper (i.e. uses the fact
> that it is bleached as well as its strength).
> So do you think recycling office paper into newsprint is downgrading?
> How about recycling office paper into bleached toilet or tissue paper?
> One final note to John Reindl - I don't know that I have the facts to
> back me up on this because I don't know the amount of recycled paper
> produced in Wisconsin, but we do use lots of recycled paper in making
> our newsprint and corrugated in Oregon, and so it is possible that our
> mill's recycled content rivals yours.
> Peter Spendelow
> Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

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