The recovered fiber sector remains one where buyers of the secondary commodity continue to plead with collectors and processors of the material to send shipments that are as close to pristine as possible. At the 2019 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Europe, held in Barcelona in early November, mill buyers issued recyclers a report card that was less than perfect.
A panel of four recovered fiber buyers representing mills across the paper, board and tissue sub-sectors also indicated they have invested to increase their ability to measure and monitor the scrap paper shipped by their suppliers.
Mark Dockx, who buys fiber for a graphic papers mill in Belgium operated by Finland-based Stora Enso, remarked that it is “impossible to make white paper out of board that is brown.”
Dockx says Stora Enso sorts some 480,000 tons per year of recovered fiber at a sorting plant located near its Langerbrugge, Belgium, mill, but even with this quality control measure it can be challenging because “paper is not collected in all containers the same way” in its Western European supply region.
The Belgian mill buyer was particularly derisive toward the mixed paper grade, stating, “Mixed paper is not a product or a raw material,” since it is “not ready to use” by his mill, which makes newsprint and magazine paper, or many other mills.
Luigi Trombetta of Italy-based tissue maker Lucart S.p.A. expressed concern about the overall decline of graphic paper use, which has made purchasing sufficient high-grade recovered fiber difficult for a tissue maker such as Lucart. “Unfortunately for us, graphic paper as a source of fiber is shrinking; that loop is getting smaller,” he stated.
The scarcity of sorted office paper (SOP) and other high grades has been a contributing factor in Lucart’s decision to make light brown-colored napkins and tissue not only for the away-from-home market, but also as an option for household users. “Is brown the new white?” Trombetta said his company is attempting to find the answer to that question.
Jean-Louis Galharret of Saica said personnel at its mills are “drilling” into bales to extract a sample for moisture measurements. He said that technique has been added to others (such as taking photos and videos of bale), and that Saica is “always thinking how to improve” its quality measurement procedures.
Nuno Messias, who is in charge of fiber procurement for two DS Smith mills in Spain and another in Portugal, says some its incoming bales undergo a “near-infrared (NIR) core drilling” process, that can measure for moisture, ash and plastics.
Both Galharret and Messias indicated their companies will make lower payments to suppliers with moisture levels that measure higher than a pre-determined ceiling. Chimed in Trombetta, “Anyone who hits [a high moisture reading] too often is not to remain a supplier.”
Messias said the issuing of strict quality regulations for imported scrap paper by government agencies in China had helped eliminate what had been the emergence of “two qualities” of fiber on the market: a lower quality for export to China and a higher quality for the European market.
Dockx stated that it was the fault of European and North American shippers that China had partially withdrawn from the global recovered fiber market. “We sent them all the [crap] we didn’t want,” he commented. “It’s as simple as that.”
The 2019 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Europe was Nov. 5-6 in Barcelona, Spain. The event is organized by Recycling Today Events.