Recovered paper quality issues impact paper mills


The quality of recovered paper remains essential for the profitability and sustainability of paper mills. However, contaminant levels have risen in the past few years.

"We have a real problem with recovered paper quality", reported Nuno Messias, head of raw material purchasing of Spanish paper producer Europac, in Barcelona at the end of October. Speaking at the autumn convention of the recycling industry association BIR (Bureau of International Recycling), Mr Messias said that the ratio of dry rejects in recycled pulp had increased from 5% in the year 2005 to about 6% at present.

Assuming that about half of the rejects consists of pulp adhering to non-paper contaminants, this means that the contaminant content in the recovered paper input reaches about 3%, according to Mr Messias. This was twice as high as the maximum content of 1.5% laid down as acceptable in the revised European Standard List of Recovered Paper Grades EN 643. The revised list is expected to be published next year.

Mr Messias underlined the negative impact of non-paper contamination on operating costs, pointing out that one kilogramme of contaminants in recovered paper gives rise to 4 kg of rejects which have to be landfilled or otherwise managed as waste. This means that paper mills pay twice for contaminants, first as part of the recovered paper purchasing price and the second time through waste management costs of €100-150 per tonne, Mr Messias commented.

Spanish paper mills are making an effort to standardise inspection procedures for their input. "In Spain, we can get all the recovered fibre we need, actually, we can export some, but we need to make sure we get the quality at the right level", Mr Messias said in summary.

Europac consumes 750,000 t of recovered paper a year at two mills in Spain and one each in France and Portugal, according to Mr Messias. The company's subsidiaries in the recovered paper and waste management sector handle 250,000 t a year. In 2011, Europac was able to cover 27% of its recovered paper need through its own activities, according to the company's annual report. By the year 2015, this share is to be raised to 50%.

In an overview over market developments in Northern Europe, Lars Gunnar Almryd, managing director of IL Recycling AB, drew attention to a further aspect. He said the decisions by paper producers Holmen and Stora Enso to close two machines fed with virgin fibre raised the question how recovered paper quality could be maintained if less fresh fibre was fed into the loop.

⇒ Find this article in its entirety and any associated background information in EUWID Pulp and Paper no. 48.

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