We began with three panels designed to hear from each
recycling system sector about the Benefits of single stream
and then from each sector about the Challenges. Since people
overwhelmingly said they do not know much about manufacturing, our
third panel brought Manufacturers together to give insights
into their processes and issues.
These morning panels were intended to give the Roundtable
group a common foundation of information to build on in the afternoon
PANEL 3 - RECYCLED PRODUCT MANUFACTURING - WHAT'S
Moderator: Jim Hill, Dept. of Conservation
Glass - Tom Mabie, Glass Packaging
Paper - Dick Johnston,
Smurfit Stone Container, Paperboard
Paper - Les Joel, Blue
Heron Paper Company, Newsprint
Glass - TOM MABIE, GLASS PACKAGING
Tom Mabie, West Coast Counsel for the Glass Packaging
Institute, wasted no time getting right to his point: "Your mother
was right - you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."
He took issue with many communities' over-emphasis
on diversion, making clear that, "Diversion is not the same as
recycling." The result of this over-emphasis has been some local
communities not paying attention to the implications of choosing
low cost programs.
Glass, in particular, has suffered. But, "Glass is
good!" Tom exclaimed. On average, glass containers include 35% postconsumer
What are the benefits of using good quality cullet
to make glass containers? Tom listed:
- A ton of natural resources is saved for every ton of glass recycled,
along with reduced demand for landfill space,
- Glass furnace emissions are cut by 15-20%,
- Energy demand is reduced by 25-32%,
- Glass can be recycled repeatedly with no deterioration; it has
virtually an unlimited recycling life,
- Life of industrial glass furnaces is significantly extended,
reducing manufacturing costs.
While glass cullet can come from a variety of sources,
including curbside, drop-off, unused inventories, in-house scrap,
and commercial sources (hotels, bars, and restaurants - beer bottles
account for 56% of recyclable glass cullet), there is a significant
increase in single stream curbside collection, with resulting increases
in 3-color mix instead of color sorted. The technological ability
to recycle 3-color mix (brown, green and clear) into new glass bottles
is severely diminished compared to the opportunities for recycling
color-sorted glass. Therefore, 3-color tends to go to non-recyclable
uses such as roadbeds, when it could have saved natural resources
indefinitely if it had gone back into new glass.
Nationwide, haulers are moving to higher compaction
rates to increase the amount of recyclables per truck trip, but
this also increases the likelihood of a 3-color mix (because glass
pieces become too small to sort effectively), as well as higher
rates of contamination and smaller sizes of glass pieces. The leading
contaminants for glass containers - organics, porcelain and vision
glass - can lead to weaker bottles that are more likely to break.
In fact, Tom said, "You need tighter specifications
when you're hitting higher recycling rates. It gets tougher as you
get better." Instead, GPI has seen a dip in the quantity of glass
collected. While paper and plastics manufacturers are unhappy about
getting glass baled into their feedstocks, the problem is actually
a greater loss for the glass industry. All the glass that ends up
at paper, plastics and aluminum mills is cullet that the glass industry
Ironically, just as glass manufacturers' customers,
especially bottlers, are demanding increasingly higher quality containers
- and more of them - the quality and quantity of recyclable glass
cullet is going down. As Tom made clear, "If we don't meet the specifications
of our customers, we don't sell our product and then we don't buy
To remain competitive, glass manufacturers continue
to reduce their processing costs, which in part translates into
wanting more high quality glass cullet because that can decrease
their energy costs. While they are working to raise quality specifications
for cullet, there continue to be more glass plant closures.
GPI recommends clear and enforced contract requirements,
- No compaction,
- Determination of true residual rates, including accounting for
materials sent to the wrong types of mills, and
- A first, positive sort for glass at the processing MRF.
Paper - DICK JOHNSTON, SMURFIT
STONE CONTAINER, Paperboard (Powerpoint)
Smurfit Stone Container's mill in Santa Clara, where
Dick Johnston is General Manager, makes 135,000 tons per year of
100% recycled paperboard for a number of consumer packaging uses,
including cereal boxes and tissue boxes. The paperboard is clay-coated
on one side to optimize printing.
Continuing one of the day's themes, Dick disagreed
with earlier claims that "Diversion is King!" Instead, to a manufacturing
mill, "Fiber Cleanliness is King!"
What is most important for making recycled-content
- Clean fiber,
- A minimum of throw-outs (non-recyclable materials) so as not
to overwhelm the cleaning system, and
- Minimizing wax, oils, plastics, and metals (in that order)
Mincing no words, Dick explained that throw-outs make
the mill's recycling system "constipated."
"We have a great cleaning system," he said, "but it
can only take so much." Like other mills, he explained that what
might seem like a small amount of contaminants and non-recyclable
materials in one bale is magnified to an untenable amount by the
several hundred tons of materials a paper mill takes in each day
to make its products.
Wax and oils, he said, leave blotches on the paperboard,
which is unacceptable to his customers. Imagine an oil blotch on
the front of your Wheaties box or a section of your Tide detergent
box that won't print. You get the picture.
Over 50% of the contaminants the Santa Clara mill
gets is plastics. Plastic is now becoming ubiquitous in shredded
paper bales, as well. Highlighting the differences between the needs
of different types of paper mills, Dick said that the Santa Clara
mill can handle glass, despite its being a big problem for newsprint
mills. Instead, the problem for him at his paperboard mill is plastics,
especially polystyrene which can slip through even the best cleaners
and screens, leaving holes in the finished paperboard.
A drum pulper, which some newsprint mills use to separate
out the plastics from the ONP (old newsprint), costs significantly
more for a paper mill to put in (up to $75 million installed) than
for a MRF to invest in equipment to sort more accurately.
Here are the givens:
- The Asian Pacific wastepaper market currently sets wastepaper
prices on the West Coast,
- China's demand for wastepaper will continue to grow while U.S.
domestic production is shut down,
- This will result in the loss of high paying jobs,
- But energy costs will continue to climb,
- Freight costs will become a bigger factor in the final cost
of all products,
- Today's US manufacturers are challenged in getting enough capital
to be able to clean the high levels of contamination in single
- While landfill costs are moving from the collector to the manufacturer.
What Could Happen?
- What if China and the US get into a trade dispute? Where do
we sell all this single stream material that is so commingled
that many paper mills cannot use it?
- What if China becomes more restrictive on the percentage of
Outthrows (poorly separated materials in the bales), pushing separation
costs back onto the collection stream again, as they are already
beginning to do?
- What if the lower price of European single stream materials
becomes more attractive than U.S. materials, upsetting our markets?
What can we do?
- We could do nothing
- The State could offer grants, low interest loans or investment
tax credits to help offset the capital costs of better separation
and cleaning systems
- California could repeal the 50% diversion rate and go back to
pushing source separation
Paper - LES JOEL, BLUE HERON
PAPER COMPANY, Newsprint (Powerpoint)
Les Joel is the Deink Plant Superintendent for Blue
Heron Paper Company, located in Oregon City, 15 miles from Portland.
Blue Heron produces 700 tons per day of newsprint for newspapers
such as the LA Times, Fresno Bee and the Sacramento Bee, as well
as specialty papers used by printers such as Vertis and Quebecor,
which need higher brightness than standard newsprint. Blue Heron
also makes the paper McDonald's uses for its bags. Both the bags
and non-newsprint products require a higher quality pulp than that
used for newspapers, which means the mill must meet even more demanding
specifications than a typical newsprint mill.
Blue Heron takes in 530 tons per day of recovered
paper from sources stretching all the way from central California
to British Columbia, and from the West Coast to the Midwest. It
buys #7 and #8 news, magazines (OMG) and office pack, as well as
some post-industrial fibers. It also has a wood-pulp mill where
it pulps 250 tons per day of wood chips.
In the Fall of 1998, Portland (OR) went from 14 separate
recycling categories to one commingled category, except that glass
is collected separately. Most of the materials are compacted during
collection. Over the next three years, most other Oregon cities
switched to commingled collection, following Portland's lead. In
2002 and 2003, the major Portland-area MRFs installed automated
sorting lines to handle this commingled collection. These MRFs also
began receiving unsorted materials from all areas of Oregon.
Blue Heron made a number of equipment and process
improvements at its mill, but the impacts are still daunting. From
1999 to 2004, the mill increased the recovered paper it used from
154,000 tons to 182,000 tons, an increase of 18%. However, the amount
of contaminants in this material doubled to over 6%, resulting in
over 11,000 tons going to landfill, at a cost of over $500,000 annually.
One of the maddening things about the contamination
problem is that it is not a consolidated problem, like the proverbial
engine blocks in bales of paper. Rather, Les likened it to "death
by 1,000 cuts." Costs increase at so many points in the process
and at the mill that it becomes difficult to accurately quantify.
For example, because the contaminants have so dramatically
increased (6% may sound minor, but magnified by more than 500 tons
of feedstocks per day, it translates into 30 tons being lost each
day), the mill has incurred increased expenses due to equipment
damage and process upsets.
The higher level of contaminants, especially glass,
require expensive screen baskets to be replaced more than twice
as often as six years ago, nearly doubling the annual replacement
costs to more than $100,000. Meanwhile, the glass, metals and plastics
introduced into the papermaking system by poor MRF sorting are wearing
out pipes and pumps much more quickly than in the past, and outside
services have to be called in far more frequently to clean out pipes,
drains and ditches.
To deal with the higher level of contaminants, Blue
Heron has tried to penalize poor-quality suppliers, but realistically
this is difficult because of competition from other mills in the
Pacific Northwest for recyclable fiber. If Blue Heron doesn't use
the fiber, other mills will because all need to feed their paper
machines, but all suffer from the reduced quality, as well.
Blue Heron has stepped up its use of post-industrial
(non-postconsumer) fiber to improve the quality mix of materials
going through its deinking plant and to its paper machines and has
modernized its equipment by putting in a drum pulper and more cleaners
and screens. It also works with state and local governments on improving
recovered paper quality.
Future steps the mill is planning include another
$3 million for upgrades to its contaminant removal process, in part
to provide more physical protection to its workers, and chemistry
addition to deal with the increased adhesives from corrugated (OCC)
that should have gone instead to a corrugated mill. It is looking
at different options to reduce its landfilling costs, including
the possibility of using some of the materials, especially the plastics
and inappropriate fibers (such as OCC), as a fuel source. (Of course,
this would preclude these materials that were collected for recycling
from being used to make recycled products.) It is also looking at
the potential for some materials recovery at its mill for the mis-directed
recyclables. But it is a challenge to figure out how to handle the
glass once it gets to a paper mill.
Les listed the types of contaminants he gets at his
deinking mill, from the highest volume to the lowest:
- Hard plastics such as jugs and containers
- Other types of papers that cannot be recycled at a newsprint
mill, such as wet-strenth, laminated, and clay-coated,
- Metals such as cans, tools, rods, and staples,
- Usable fiber that is lost because it adheres to contaminant
materials such as plastics or mixes in with the glass,
- Soft plastics such as bags and film,
- Glass - while lower in volume than many other contaminants,
its insidiousness as a "sand" that can be air-borne as well as
in the process water, plus its grinding capacity, presents serious
hazards to a newsprint millŐs equipment as well as to its workers,
- Miscellaneous materials such as textiles and rubber.
Les headed off a common objection by saying that he
is philosophically opposed to paying higher than the going rate
to get good quality fiber.
"How many of your MRFs have data on your general quality
like I have on how my mill runs?" he asked the audience. No hands
raised. "Yet you want me to pay union wages and benefits to sort
the material that was supposed to be sorted at your MRF?"
He ended with a rhetorical question: "I bought a new
Chevy a few months ago. Does it make sense to expect me to now pay
extra so that it will work well?"
Plastics - DENNIS SABOURIN,
Dennis Sabourin, Executive Director of NAPCOR, which focuses on
markets for PET plastics, supported the sentiment that single stream
recycling, if done properly, will work. However, he added, it may
require proper techniques and capital expenditures.
After all, he said, "If you're not using the material diverted,
you didn't divert."
Single stream programs still need to address:
- Increase in residuals,
- Loss of valuable recyclable commodities, and
- Lost revenue due to downgrade of recyclables and lost sales
With PET plastics, it is especially economically compelling to
solve single stream problems. After all, while the value of one
metric tonne of newsprint is $100 - $125, the value of the same
weight of PET is $530 - $570. And in California, where containers
earn CRV value plus processing payments, one metric tonne of PET
is worth a whopping $2,066. No wonder NAPCOR and others in the plastics
industry are determined to keep PET bottles from being landfilled
at paper mills because of poor MRF sorting.
Dennis pointed out that conditions at the MRF itself greatly affect
the amount of residuals lost. First, its sources should be educated
to provide good quality materials because the quality coming into
the MRF affects the quality going out. But once the recyclables
reach the MRF, factors more under its control play a big role, too.
- Is the MRF a protected structure, to prevent weather damage
to the materials?
- How is the material dumped onto the floor? Materials dumped
from a height, as when trucks back up to a pit, are more likely
to include broken glass.
- Is the material presorted before going onto the automated sorting
- How does the MRF deal with high moisture conditions in its
- How many screens are used?
- What is the width and depth of the materials on the conveyor
- What is the speed of the sorting belts?
NAPCOR recommends several steps to prevent bottle loss:
- Educate residents to get a good quality incoming stream,
- Handle no more than the appropriate tons per hour for which
the MRF was designed,
- Adjust the belt speed to ensure that the fiber doesnŐt become
too deep, hiding other recyclables,
- Remove film plastics before the materials reach the sorting
- Add another star screen to a single screen system, and
- Send residuals back through the system.
In designing a single stream MRF:
- Analyze the stream of material from the community that will
be using it,
- Design the MRF to handle that planned incoming stream of material,
- Be sure that what is diverted to the recycling system can actually
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Benefits of Single Stream
Challenges of Single Stream