Recycling Association wants focus on whole paper supply chain

Recycling Association wants focus on whole paper supply chainThe Recycling Association, a trade association for waste paper processors and equipment suppliers, has said it believes newly-released guidelines on the quality of paper for recycling are ‘a start’ but do not go far enough to highlight that everyone across the supply chain can impact paper quality.

A revised set of guidelines for the quality control of paper for recycling were published by the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) on 4 April.

The guidelines, which contain recommendations for suppliers of paper for recycling and paper mills, call for a maximum non-target material contamination level of 1.5 per cent and a maximum moisture level of 10 per cent. They also suggest that for bales exceeding the maximum moisture levels, specific agreements should be made between buyers and suppliers and that bales should be rejected if this agreement is not met, which the Recycling Association disagrees with.

EN 643 standard

The European Standard (EN) 643 standard sets out the European guidelines for paper and cardboard that is to be used for recycling to assist in the production of comparable levels of quality from all suppliers. It defines what paper standards are required, including materials that are prohibited or unwanted, and maximum tolerance levels for unwanted materials. 

It also specifies what different grades of paper should contain and has been prepared to assist industry professionals in the buying and selling of paper. The new CEPI guidelines have been released to improve harmonisation and implementation of the EN 643 standard.

They contain a strong emphasis on the paper quality control inspection procedure at paper mills and outline the procedure controllers should adhere to when deciding to accept a product, dependent upon bale conditions, moisture content and unwanted materials.

Guidelines don’t go far enough

The Recycling Association has welcomed the new guidelines including the improvements to the paper mill inspection procedure, bale condition and control of contamination, but said that the guidelines do not go far enough in highlighting that the entire supply chain must play its part to ensure quality levels of paper are raised.

The association said that paper mills should be aware that recyclers don’t necessarily receive high-quality material from the supply chain.

It also highlighted that the accepted level of moisture for material from the UK is 12 per cent, not 10 per cent as recommended in the new guidelines, which includes a margin for error.

It claimed that buyers of UK material are aware that paper for recycling may exceed the moisture levels, during the winter months in particular, and that they make a commercial decision on whether they want to buy it or not.

In addition, the association said that it is concerned that the enforcement of a maximum paper moisture level may force the prices of UK paper for recycling down.

“Moisture is not illegal”

Simon Ellin, Chief Executive of the Recycling Association, said: “Our members work with suppliers who provide bales that are of excellent quality and are welcomed by them, but there are also a significant number of companies and organisations that are trading material that is poor and in some cases illegal.

“The Recycling Association is committed to improving quality, and wants to see the UK’s environment agencies focus on illegal exporters which deliberately flout the system, while we also need to work with local authorities and other suppliers to bring overall quality up. That way, we can ensure that the paper recycling industry is recognised for being the resource industry it is, as part of the international circular economy.”

“If you impose strict limits on maximum moisture levels, it may well prevent material leaving these shores as suppliers will not want to risk massive demurrage charges from Europe or Asia. This will have the effect of forcing UK prices down.

“Moisture is not illegal as long as it does not prohibit a product’s recyclability. Any subsequent commercial decision is then between the buyer and the seller. If the buyer doesn’t like it, they don’t buy it!”