All of a sudden, plastic contamination is in the news. Restaurants in our area, for instance, have started posting signs concerning plastic straws with the claim that the world uses 500 million plastic straws per day. I find that number a bit incredulous, for it means that 1 in 16 of us, including newborn infants, use a plastic straw each day. There has also been a video on LinkedIn of a woman paddling up to a pile of plastic near the water's edge somewhere. It looks awful, but the video fails to comment on her being on a plastic surfboard, an item that used to be made of wood. I am, by the way, in favor of getting rid of as much plastic as we can (paperboard milk cartons and paper grocery sacks, anyone?).
But what does all of this have to do with Quality Month at Paperitalo Publications?
Just this. China has recently implemented stringent laws on the importation of recycled paper laden with contaminants. If recycled paper is a component in your process, you have been enjoying reduced prices for months due to the Chinese ban. Of course, at the same time, the Chinese paper companies have been starving for fiber, for US wastepaper has been a long-term source of supply for them.
So, how to raise the quality of wastepaper to meet the Chinese requirements? At least one Chinese paper company, Nine Dragons, operating in the US as ND Paper, is showing the way. As reported in Nip Impressions on 9 Oct 18, ND Paper has announced capital improvement projects at their recently acquired mills in Wisconsin and Maine. They have also purchased the deinked recycled pulp mill in West Virginia and the Old Town mill in Maine is in their sights.
In Maine, ND will invest in a recycled pulp facility, adding 1,200 Air Dried Metric Tons/Day of manufacturing capacity to the facility in Rumford.
In Wisconsin, ND will also invest in a recycled pulp facility, adding 1,900 Air Dried Metric Tons/Day of manufacturing capacity there (I suspect some of this may be used on site and not dried before consumption).
Join us in Guatemala next summer for the 3rd Paperitalo Papermakers' Mission Trip [12.06.18]
ND Paper has found a way to improve the quality of recycled fiber imported to China--leave the plastic and other deleterious materials at their source.
Recycling brown fiber for market pulp is a new idea, at least when done to the scale ND Paper is anticipating.
Is this different than any other quality projects in our mills? In a fundamental way, the answer is "no." Our customers expect our products to be without contamination. In fact, this is so obvious, it often goes without saying. The Chinese regulations have just moved this quality requirement further upstream.
What will this quality requirement do to the recycled stream? It is hard to say. For decades, we have accepted that recycled fiber reaches our mills with a certain amount of contamination and it is the responsibility of the mill to remove it. What if ND Paper, and others, find a way to economically remove the contaminates and sell recycled air-dried pulp to everyone, local or distant? This would be an upset to the conventional infrastructure, obsolescing some, creating opportunities in other places.
It turns out for the moment, at least, that the Chinese government has created a regulation that instills a new level of quality in the recycled fiber their country is willing to accept. What this means for the rest of us is going to be an interesting development.
For safety this week, market pulp will change the safety dynamic in the entry end of recycled paper mills. I can't think of all the changes this will mean, but it will change what is safe, what is not safe--process changes always do this.
Be safe and we will talk next week.