European paper should be sorted in Europe, say EU mills
3 August 2007
The European paper industry has hit out at the growing proportion of recovered paper obtained through commingled collection systems.
It has said paper mills will have to close in Europe if further collections switch to single-stream - and has denounced the growing dependence on developing nations to sort European waste paper.
Surely the place to recycle should be guided by the environmental impact, including the impact of transport?
Anders Hildeman, ERPC
The European Recovered Paper Council said that even if the concept of single-stream collections seems appealing to councils, "it unfortunately leads to high levels of contamination".
The contamination impacts on the efficiency of paper recycling, the organisation said, leading to costs that are leading to mill closures and the landfilling of some collected material.
Its chairman, Anders Hildeman, said "The European paper industry has achieved a 63.4% recycling rate. If we are to reach higher levels and find the right qualities of recovered paper, ensuring separate collection of different materials will be necessary."
Mr Hildeman, who is also senior vice president (public affairs) for paper company SCA, was responding to an article in a June edition of The Economist magazine that said commingled collection systems were working well in the US.
He said support for commingled collections suggested it was "better to send recyclates to developing countries for processing", but argued that "the European paper industry has, on average, a better environmental performance than the paper industry in other parts of the world".
"Surely the place to recycle should be guided by the environmental impact, including the impact of transport?" Mr Hildeman said.
The concern about commingled collections was shared by the International Association of the Deinking Industry (INGEDE), an association of European paper mills that promotes the use of recovered newspapers, magazines and office paper.
It has written to Leeds city council to express concern about the council's intention to consider sorting glass at its new materials recycling facility (see letsrecycle.com story).
INGEDE spokesman Axel Fischer told letsrecycle.com yesterday: "If paper is collected together with glass, among other problems a serious increase in damages to the paper mill has been observed. As an organisation of the paper industry we are very worried about the future of paper recycling if this trend towards commingled collection continues."
The association's latest newsletter features a US paper mill that is "fighting with up to 17% contaminants in the sorted paper coming from MRFs". The article highlights a new commingled collection system in the State of Oregon, where paper recyclers had not expected the level of contamination arising.
It suggested more paper mills will have to close because of the costs from replacing machinery worn out by contaminants like glass.
INGEDE said the problem was also being seen in Europe where "especially in the UK, communities try to save money by collecting as many recyclables together as possible."
"The deteriorating quality of recovered paper is already becoming a problem," the association said, adding that its members were asking communities and local authorities to stop "this unsustainable and ecologically counterproductive approach".
INGEDE has launched a project with Austrian research centre Carinthian Tech Research (CTR) to improve and develop automated sorting technology for recovered paper. CTR developed the technology behind the Titech optical sorting systems already being used in some UK MRFs.
The new project aims to produce systems to detect and reject non-paper impurities like plastics or wood as well as unwanted paper grades like cardboard or flexographic printed materials.
The systems are based on optical sensors, that can detect contaminants using their infrared and visible light "fingerprints".
Raimond Leitner, project leader with CTR, said: "This is the biggest challenge for us - flexo news which come across the borders from the UK or Italy in the course of the globaliseation of the recovered paper trade, yet can only be identified by their title. Our system will manage that on the assembly line, within ten milliseconds or less."