Resource Recycling Fiber Issue Highlights Positive Signs for Market Development

Date: 29 Jul 2019 | posted in: plastics, waste - recycling | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

We keep hearing how the recycling market has tanked. The mass media and trade journals report that we have we have nowhere to send our recyclables, and our recycling is getting sent back because the Chinese National Sword program denies markets for US contaminated single stream materials

But a recent issue of Resource Recycling provides some good news, particularly in the fiber markets. American entrepreneurship is changing these dire expectations. For instance, Willamette Falls Paper Company is reopening the doors of the West Linn Paper Mill with the express intent of addressing the needs for better paper recycling options. Because they’ve just begun this project, it will take a few years to get going, but small mills and recyclers all over the country have begun to open their doors, realizing that the current recycling crisis is really an opportunity to fill a new gap in the US domestic market. 

Pratt industries, a huge recycler of mixed paper will be opening a new mill in Ohio which will use up to 425,000 tons of paper per year, half of which will be recycled mixed use paper.

According to Resource Recovery, the mixed paper market is already recovering. It will only continue to grow over the next 3-5 years, until the supply is met by the demand.

The growth of paper recycling is a worldwide phenomenon. The Chinese Government has stopped contaminated recycling from entering the country, but Chinese firms are aggressively seeking ways to continue to recycle fiber from outside of China. Chinese mills are opening in Southeast Asia, in countries like Malaysia, where they are planning on adding another 3 million tons of new capacity to these markets in the next few years, according to the June Resource Recovery Issue. Two Chinese companies are also opening mills in India, a country whose mills are older, and need capital improvements. These companies could drastically change the Indian recycling market.

The overall message is that markets for even low grade paper grades will stabilize, even if prices for fiber do not return to market highs of the recent past. “Stabilization is critical,” says, Neil Seldman, of ILSR, “even if prices for recycled paper never achieve values driven artificially high over the past decade by Chinese fevered purchasing of secondary paper. The key to municipal recycling is cost and pollution avoidance, not revenue from the sale of recyclables, which never can cover collection and processing costs.”

ReThink Waste, the waste management agency in San Mateo County, CA recently made strides in paper recycling. The agency issued $50 million in bonds to help pay for infrastructure projects. One will improve the sorting of paper at a local processing facility, making it easier to meet the new recycling market standards and increase revenue. 

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Jacq Streur

Jacq Streur was an intern for the Waste to Wealth Initiative. She received her BS from Dominican University of Northern California, while a staff member at Zero Waste Marin. She pairs her research background with her hands on knowledge to write compelling reports on recycling, economic decentralization, and the future of urban zero waste.