PPRCE 2018: Made to measure

PPRCE 2018: Made to measure

Buyers and sellers of recovered fiber in Europe are beginning to see eye-to-eye on the benefits of quality measurement procedures.

November 16, 2018

(Pictured, left to right: Bill Moore of Moore & Associates; Francisco Donoso of ALBA Group; Andreas Walser of Hamburger Recycling; and Katrijn van Riet of SUEZ.)

Scrap material buyers around the world are demanding increased product quality and purity, and recyclers are showing an increased willingness to meet the challenge, according to presenters at the 2018 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Europe, held in Prague, Czech Republic, in early November.

In a session titled “Let’s talk about quality,” moderated by United States-based paper industry consultant Bill Moore of Moore & Associates, Moore made a presentation created by Peter Seggie of Ireland-based paper producer (and recycling plant operator) Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG).

Among Seggie’s observations was that the United Kingdom engaged in more commingled collection than recyclers in other European nations, and that this had hurt them when China tightened its scrap paper import restrictions.

Seggie indicated the Chinese government and Chinese mill buyers no longer welcomed “inferior” grades of scrap paper. “Who will buy these ‘inferior’ grades?” Seggie asked via his presentation slides. Supplying his own answer on behalf of SKG, he stated, “Not us!”

Andreas Walser of Hamburger Recycling, an Austria-based firm that also operates both paper mills and recycling plants, also singled out commingled collection, saying, “It doesn’t deliver quality needs; this is a no-go for us.”

At Hamburger’s mills, the company has been using a microwave technology known as HPNA () that Walser said can measure the moisture level of 70 percent of a truckload’s material in less than a minute. The company also conducts visual inspections and is experimenting with core drilling. “For quality products, we need quality recyclables,” he stated.

Katrijn van Riet of France-based SUEZ said an increasing number of paper mill buyers around the world were engaging in core drilling of purchased bales to measure moisture content and material cleanliness. Mills will share this information with recycling plant operators “especially when results are negative,” she commented.

Van Riet said SUEZ has come to accept core drilling as an appropriate gage of quality, especially when replacing visual inspection, which she said can be “too subjective.”

Regarding China’s tighter specifications for scrap paper, van Riet said SUEZ “took the new quality requirements very seriously; we didn’t export until we were sure we could meet them.”  She said it was clear that other nations may well follow China’s lead, since they “don’t want to become the waste [recipient] to the world.”

Francisco Donoso, who is based in Spain for the Germany-based ALBA Group, was more skeptical of the new Chinese standards, stating, “Based on environmental reasons, they are not proportional to technical efficiency improvements.”

Donoso said the new specifications also are “not proportional to economic margins” and that Chinese mills were not benefitting from “paying twice the price” for their recovered fiber. Subsequently, he said it was “not worth it” for European mills to outbid Chinese buyers for the now purer but more expensive material.

Chinese mills, he concluded, are “paying a premium because of limits imposed by the Chinese government.” He referred to it as a market distortion created for political reasons, concluding, “Quality is not the problem; we have demonstrated we can adapt.”

The 2018 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Europe event was Nov. 6-7 at the Corinthia Prague Hotel in Prague, Czech Republic. The 2019 conference will be in Barcelona Nov. 5-6, 2019.