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EU row over recovered paper quality standards

The European Recovered Paper Association (ERPA) has defended EU proposals to set a quality standard for what constitutes recovered paper in the face of fierce industry criticism.

Last week the European Commission passed a regulation to define when recovered paper ceases to be waste and can be considered recyclable. If adopted by the European Parliament early next year the criteria will be applicable to recycling companies across the EU.

ERPA said the move would encourage higher quality recycling and boost the EU recycling market.

But the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) warned the proposals would allow contaminated recovered paper to be defined as recycled paperand that the amount of impurities of the end-of-waste material would be “15,000 times higher than they are at this moment”.

In response ERPA said the CEPI’s opposition was “very strange”.

ERPA – a ‘daughter federation’ of the Bureau of International Recycling that focuses on EU matters – had previously worked closely with CEPI to develop recovered paper standard specifications.

Ross Bartley, ERPA environmental and technical officer, told MRW: “This process has been going on for a very long time and the paper industry was in agreement with the process for many years.

“The whole intention of this is to increase the quality of recycling. It costs companies money and effort to put in a management system and increase the quality of their processed material.

“The trade-off is then that they are relieved of the European waste legislation.

“As long as costs of meeting the quality regulations is less than the costs to companies from waste legislation, then we will see companies improving their processed materials.

“This is something that everyone should be supporting. It is very strange that the paper industry at this stage has dropped out of the process.”

Under the EC proposals qualified staff would carry out a visual inspection of every recovered paper consignment. The ‘non-paper’ component allowed would be “less than or equal to 1.5 % of air dry weight”.

A non-paper component is any material that can be separated using dry sorting techniques.

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