Mixed Waste Processing Significantly Reduces Paper Recycling : ISRI Survey: Paper Mill Fibre Buyers Unsatisfied with Mixed Recycling Collection

ISRI paper recycling mixed collections fibre paper mill

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), has released the preliminary results of a survey of paper mill buyers in North America which found of those that purchase recovered fibre from mixed waste processing centres, 70% find the quality to be worse than most other sources of recovered paper.

The Washington, D.C. based trade association explained that the survey targeted buyers responsible for sourcing recovered fibre for their paper mills, and sought their thoughts and experiences with materials from mixed waste processing centres.

According to ISRI mixed waste processing centres advise their residential customers that there is no need to separate recyclables from solid waste (including organics) prior to collection, claiming that the valuable recyclables will be successfully separated in a Material Recycling Facility (MRF).

The organisation said that while there have been other recent studies about mixed waste processing centres, this is the first known study that exclusively solicited views of recovered paper buyers regarding their opinions and views about the ability to successfully use the recyclables sorted from such ‘one-bin’ programs.

Highlights of the survey’s initial results include:

82% of respondents purchase recovered fibre for between 1 to 6 mills, and 49% of respondents purchase material in the range of more than 100,000 tons of recovered fibre per year, but less than 500,000 tons of recovered fibre per year

Of the respondents, 25% purchase “some” material from dirty MRFs, but these mills purchase less than 10% of their required tonnage from mixed waste processing centres

Of those that purchase recovered fibre from mixed waste processing centres, 70% find the quality to be worse than most other recovered paper, and 90% of those mill buyers have had to downgrade or reject the paper from the mixed waste processing centres, at a higher rate than recovered paper from “regular” MRFs

62%, or nearly 2/3 of those surveyed feel that ISRI specs should contain a statement as part of the paper specifications that states: “paper recovered from one-bin programs, separated in mixed-waste processing centres, is not fit for use in USA paper mills.”

Of the 75% of respondents who said they do not purchase recovered fibre from mixed waste processing centres, the top eight reasons given for not purchasing it were:



Low Quality

Exhibit a higher level of prohibitives and Outthrows versus what is acceptable

Internal quality standards prevent purchasing

Too risky

Excessive moisture

Quality will not meet the mills’ customers’ needs.

ISRI explained that the survey was conducted confidentially via an online survey to North American paper mill buyers between January 11 and January 31, 2016 by an independent third party research firm was used to conduct the survey.

All major mill groups using recovered paper in North America were invited to participate in the survey, both members, as well as non-members of ISRI.

Robin Wiener, president of ISRI commented:

“We gained an incredible amount of learning from the survey participants regarding their experiences and preferences concerning the procurement of recovered fibre for their paper mills.

“In 2014, ISRI issued a policy statement discouraging the use of one-bin collection systems due to anecdotal statements and strong feelings from our member companies regarding the degradation in quality of recyclables recovered from such systems, but it wasn’t until the completion of this survey that we finally gleaned hard data from paper mills about the poor quality and contamination that they are actually experiencing, and the resulting impact on their purchasing and sourcing decisions.

“It is clear from this study that in communities where mixed-waste processing systems are put in place, the recycling of paper is significantly diminished, both in quality and quantity.”

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