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Moisture in paper is significantly decreasing material quality, says industry expert

Too much moisture in UK cardboard is a significant factor that could jeopardise the industry’s future as a supplier to China, according to a large paper trader.

Speaking at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, paper recycler Mark Lyndon’s commercial director Paul Briggs said the amount of moisture found in UK waste paper is a large contributing factor to the diminished quality of the material we export to China, which is the UK’s biggest export market.

He said: “Moisture is very, very expensive for me to buy. I spend around £6m a year on moisture. In winter some loads are absolutely saturated with water. At the moment, I’m getting 15% moisture in each load I buy but this can go up to 30% in some loads.

“The UK is particularly affected because of the weather. Then we put the loads on slow boats to China so, if you have a really wet bale by the time it gets to China, it has rotted and it’s no good.”

He said the solution was to keep material dry and store it under cover.

Contaminated loads and fibre length are also issues affecting UK material. He said a box that contains added moisture will mean that only 65% of a load is re-usable fibre.

Briggs told delegates that the UK is slipping in the quality estimation of Chinese mills. He said the UK used to provide the second-best quality material, behind the US and Scandinavia. But it has now slipped to provide the third-best quality material along with the rest of Europe. This could mean that in the future, as the Chinese domestic market gets larger, the UK becomes a fringe supplier. The UK could even have to face up to the danger that its material was no longer wanted.

Briggs added: “We’re getting more and more poor quality material, with a lot of it coming from new recycling companies and some of it from MRFs.”

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