Recovered Paper Poor Quality from Mixed Waste Processing Facilities

June 10, 2016, Ann Arbor, Mich. – Sustainability and recycling consultancy, Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) joined the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in announcing the release of a new study, Mixed Waste Processing & Desirability of Recovered Paper Market Survey.

The study is in response to current debate surrounding the quality of recovered fiber generated by mixed waste processing facilities. The survey responses indicated paper mill buyers perceive scrap paper generated by mixed waste processing facilities as generally unusable by pulp and paper mills due to the fibers’ close encounters with organic and putrescible waste that causes the material to become susceptible to a host of undesirable quality issues.

Study participants gave several reasons for not purchasing paper from a mixed waste processing facility:

  • Contamination
  • Odor
  • Low quality
  • Higher than acceptable percentages of prohibitives and outthrows
  • Internal quality standards prevent us from purchasing
  • Using recovered paper from mixed waste processing facilities is too risky
  • Excessive moisture
  • Quality of raw materials will not meet the needs of my customer
  • Regulatory concerns (e.g., FDA, solid waste hauling permits)
  • Green Fence (only answered if they purchased for Asian mills)
  • Lack of availability in my geographic area

The study indicated 25 percent of respondents purchased paper from mixed waste processing facilities, of those 70 percent found the quality of paper “to be worse than other recovered paper”, and 90 percent had to reject or downgrade mixed waste recovered paper at a high rate.

“In communities across the country, we have seen one-bin systems continually fail,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “This report provides hard data as to why, and that is because where mixed-waste processing is used, the recycling of paper is significantly diminished, both in quality and quantity. There is little, if any, market for such paper. Communities that are still debating between one-bin and dual stream operations can now better make an informed decision.”

RRS led the effort to design and administer the questionnaire utilized to survey the mill buyers and exporters of recycled paper, as well as analyze and summarize the survey findings. The study included 41 participants and was conducted in January 2016 with the assistance of GreenPath Sustainability Consultants and Ali Henriques.

Request a copy of the report here.


About RRS

Founded in 1986 and headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, RRS is a sustainability and recycling consulting firm that strives to create a world where resources are managed to maximize economic and social benefit while minimizing environmental harm. The firm has cutting-edge industry professionals, engineers, economists, technical analysts, and communication specialists who share this vision and possess core strengths in materials and recovery, life cycle management, applied sustainable design, and collaborative action development. RRS serves both the public and private sectors to manage change in a resource-constrained world.


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