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DS Smith quality drive pre-empts China import policy

The head of DS Smith’s recycling operation in the UK says a drive to boost the quality of secondary materials has paid dividends in the face of the tighter export market to China.

Mat Prosser implemented a stricter quality regime at its recycling arm after returning to the company’s UK operation a year ago. This mostly concerned paper but included some plastic.

Earlier this year, DS Smith introduced quality control teams working inde­pendently of the company’s existing operations. The teams also work directly with customers.

Prosser told MRW: “We recognised that, to control qual­ity, we had to do something different. The [QC team] go in, take photographs and carry out physical inspections such as breaking bales. We assess moisture content and plastic content – anything that would make that bale not up to the quality for that product.

“With customers’ approval, they also monitor their quality. That’s not a punitive approach. It’s a proactive approach to ensure that we are pushing the quality back upstream into the supply chain.”

The initiative was planned ahead of China’s Operation National Sword and the country’s new regulatory regime which threatens UK exports of post-consumer plastic and mixed paper grades. Prosser said it was a “satisfying coincidence” for himself and colleagues.

“The resource that we’ve proactively put into place, I thought was ahead of the game, but the game nearly caught up.”

mat prosser

mat prosser

In an MRW Big Interview, Prosser also set out how greater diversification has been important.

“We’re not a one-trick pony in terms of the offerings that we have, and we don’t want to be wholly dependent on one sector,” he said. “If you’ve got the right business model, you can adapt to that and see your way through it.”

The company has also launched an animal bedding product using recycled fibre, based at a packag­ing plant at Blunham, near Bedford.

“It’s complementary to our fibre mantra and our ethos in terms of utilis­ing fibre and putting it back into an environmentally acceptable route.”

The Big Interview – subscribers only

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