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Falling quality of paper hampers recycling industry

The falling quality of recovered paper from some UK sources is hampering Aylesford Newsprints attempts to drive up the quality of its final product, commercial manager Chris White told this months 2007 European Paper Recycling Conference in Amsterdam. The company consumes some 510,000 tonnes of recovered paper each year in producing newsprint to some of the highest standards in the world, and is currently striving to enhance the brightness of its product. However, these efforts are being hindered by recovered paper supplies that fail to meet the desired levels of cleanness, dryness and freshness. White singled out for particular criticism the 10% of Aylesford Newsprints recovered fibre supplies drawn from materials recycling facilities (MRFs) which, he said, was always damp, generally dirty and always smells as a result of contamination with food waste. The company has calculated that contraries - including glass, cans and plastic bottles - make up some 5-9% of these supplies; and according to White, research by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has suggested the proportion could be as high as 19%. Plastics bags and film cause blockages while the presence of significant quantities of glass means the mills stainless steel slotted screens are wearing out after only three months on average compared to 18 months in the mid-1990s, he explained. However, the leading cause of disputes and rejections is moisture, White went on to say. Indeed, Aylesford Newsprint has asked Pira to assess methods of measuring moisture content. Having noted that yields at Aylesford have dropped from around 81% a decade ago to nearer 78% at present, White told the international gathering that the problems of recovered paper quality were so serious that the mill had looked at importing fibre because the quality is better in some Western European countries. And he warned: We need to get the fibre stream in the UK segregated - China will eventually want the same quality of recovered paper we need. Also at the conference, Pira Internationals Dr Graham Moore pointed out that an increasing number of local authorities in the UK were switching to commingled collections to improve their recycling rates and cost efficiencies. But while MRFs were able to segregate material streams to a reasonable quality when running well, evidence suggested materials were not sorted properly and quality was thus declining, he added. Bill Moore of US-based consultancy firm Moore & Associates described as inevitable the decline in recovered paper quality as collections headed up the recovery curve. Newer mills are better able to cope with a higher level of contaminants, he argued. The massive shift in global flows of recovered paper over recent years emerged as a dominant theme at the Amsterdam conference. Giuseppe Masotina, CEO of leading Italian fibre processor Masotina SpA, noted that only three European countries - Austria, Spain and Sweden - were now net importers of recovered paper. He pointed to figures from the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) which showed that Europes recovered paper exports to other parts of the world surged 7.3% last year to 8.2 million tonnes whereas CEPI countries imports from other regions totalled barely 1 million tonnes. The dominant role that China will continue to play in the world recovered paper market was illustrated by Maggie Chew, managing director of Mark Lyndon International BV (MLI) in the Netherlands. Her company is the European procurement arm of Lee & Man Paper, currently Chinas second-largest containerboard producer with an annual capacity of 3.1 million tonnes which is scheduled to increase to nearer 4 million tonnes by the end of next year and to more than 6 million tonnes by 2010. She disclosed to the Amsterdam conference that her company would be opening a recovered paper office in Nottingham before the end of this year - its first in the UK. Its five existing offices are in Los Angeles, New Jersey, Rotterdam, China and Tokyo. MLI was currently exporting 1 million tonnes of recovered paper per annum but this figure was set to increase, she went on to say. Ms Chew also rejected the possible emergence of a worldwide shortage of OCC. She predicted that the market would remain reasonably well balanced over the next five years but that there would be a tendency for prices to trend higher.

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