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Around the world: the recycling industry hit the road this spring, attending a number of conventions.

Spring is a busy season for the recycling industry,, with a rapid-fire lineup of conventions attracting attendees from all facets of the industry.

Representatives from the public and private sector of the waste management and recycling industries met in Atlanta in early May for WasteExpo. In addition. the international recycling community came together in Greece for the Bureau of International Recycling's (BIR) World Recycling Conference. Recyclers with their eyes on secure document and product destruction also hit the road for the NAID (National Association for Information Destruction) Annual Convention in April in Orlando.

In addition to a wide range of educational programming, attendees of these various trade events had the opportunity to tour exhibit halls packed with the latest equipment and service offerings.

COMMODITY FOCUSED. WasteExpo, May 7-10 in Atlanta, was one of the most successful shows in the its history, according to the event's planners. While in the past, the main hub was the exhibit hall, this year's educational program drew a significant number of attendees.

Along with presentations and discussions about a number of commodities, WasteExpo also introduced a roundtable session featuring representatives from three recycling companies discussing their hits and misses in "the business of recycling."

Moderated by Chaz Miller. from EIA (Environmental Industry Association), the three representatives, Ben Harvey of E.L. Harvey & Sons, Westborough, Mass.; Mike Benedetto of Tidewater Fibers, Chesapeake, Va.; and John Pausma of Homewood Disposal, Kankakee, Ill., discussed the opportunities and challenges they have experienced in the municipal recycling segment of the waste management business.

The trio discussed a variety of issues, including the negative impact glass had on the value of other recyclable commodities in single-stream collection systems, obtaining and maintaining a workforce and driver shortages.

When asked about his company's biggest success, Harvey said, "Having survived in the business for 40 years."

As for failures, Harvey said that over time, even mistakes can be seen as beneficial "if you have the foresight to turn the problems around."

Another well-attended session focused on steps that communities can take to boost recycling participation rates. Patrick Fitzgerald with the fast-growing RecycleBank, Philadelphia, talked about the strategies his company has taken to provide incentives to increase participation in curbside municipal recycling programs. RecycleBank has partnered with several cities and expects to expand into more communities in the next year.

Steve Thompson with the Curbside Value Partnership (CVP), Arlingron, Va., noted that the UBC recycling rare has been steadily declining. With that in mind the CVP, a program of the Aluminum Association and the Can Manufacturers Institute, has been helping communities to publicize the benefits of increased curbside recycling.

The 2008 WasteExpo will be in Chicago from May 5 through May 7.

GOOD FORTUNE FOR FERROUS. The international recycling community gathered May 21-23 in Athens for the annual BIR World Recycling Conference. During the spring meeting, Christian Rubach, president of BIR's Ferrous Division, as well as the head of Germany's Interseroh Hansa Recycling GmbH, noted that the positive market last year should continue through this year.

Steel demand is expected to climb a further 5.9 percent this year--equivalent to some 65 million metric tons--and by a further 6.1 percent in 2008 to 1.25 billion metric tons. Chinese demand is predicted to surge 13 percent in 2007 and 10 percent in 2008 to reach 443 million metric tons, or 35 percent of the world total.

However, Rubach said he believed International Iron and Steel Institute forecasts for this year to be "at the low end." He continued, "World crude steel production has shown an increase of 10.2 percent in the 2007 first quarter compared to the same period in 2006. Nearly all major steel producing countries showed strong increases; only the United States had weaker production."

"Strong investments in electric arc furnace capacity expansions on nearly all continents, especially in Russia, the Middle East and Turkey, but also in 'old' economies like Germany," would underpin in part further growth in scrap demand, observed Rubach.

Anton van Genuchten, divisional VP of TSR GmbH & Co. KG in Germany, echoed this positive message. In his report on the European market, Genuchten calculated that EU-25 steelworks had consumed about 107 million metric tons of steel scrap last year--a record level and well ahead of the 101 million metric tons in 2005. EU-25 steel scrap exports also scaled new heights in rising 9.1 percent last year to 10.1 million metric tons. Turkey strengthened its position as the EU'S leading customer in increasing its order levels by almost 60 percent to more than 4.8 million metric tons.

Denis Ilatovskiy of Russia's Mair Joint Stock Co. reported that domestic scrap consumption increased by 25 percent during the first four months of 2007 in response to the introduction of 12 million to 15 million metric tons of new EAF capacity. Russian scrap collection had improved 20 percent during the same period, owing to relatively mild winter weather. This had led to a small increase in exports, though the trend was deemed unlikely to continue in the coming months. Ukrainian steel scrap collection was expected to increase slightly to 8 million metric tons in 2007, though the export proportion would be "negligible," Ilatovskiy said.

Reporting on the U.S. market, Divisional VP Jeremy Sutcliffe of Sims Group, based in Australia, argued that a combination of factors had created "the distorted appearance that scrap is in surplus and readily available from many sources." He said he expected firming scrap prices, given that "the world may consume up to 20 million metric tons more purchased scrap this year. Buyers should view the present market as a brief buying opportunity."

The first of two guest speakers, Peter Albrecht of PricewaterhouseCoopers management board anticipated further consolidation within the world steel industry in 2007 and 2008. Some 250 steel-related mergers and acquisitions in 2005 had been followed by an additional 220 acquisitions in 2006. But, he added, "It seems there will always be a market for small niche players that use barriers to shipping to target specific markets."

Heinz Hetmeier, director of the trade policy division at Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, provided insight into the latest moves at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to tackle trade barriers. Under the current Doha Round of negotiations, he noted, the EU had tabled a proposal that would commit all WTO members to eliminate export taxes "if they are not justified by specific reasons."

The BIR Autumn Roundtables is scheduled for Oct. 22-23 in Warsaw.

PAPER TRAILS. More than 800 people attended the annual NAID Conference April 11-13 in Orlando. Sessions dealt primarily with the secure document destruction industry, but attendees also could to learn more about the world paper market.

Security may come first for document destruction companies, but it's been hard not to notice that the shredded scrap paper they generate has gone up in value recently. Attendees of a session focused on recovered fiber pricing heard several views on why paper mills are paying more for the material.

Marc Forman of the Jericho, N.Y.-based Harmon Associates division of Georgia-Pacific said that when prices rise, they are invariably linked to changes in the supply and demand situation. In recent months, there has been a "relatively lackluster supply" of office paper, he said, combined with a "pretty voracious demand by mills."

Joe Jurden of Cook Paper Recycling Corp., Kansas City, Mo., also noted that the low value of the U.S. dollar against other currencies means that global buyers of scrap paper are seeking out U.S. suppliers above others.

Quality was also an important topic for the panel, including discussions of contaminants and shred size in the secure shredding market. Forman disclosed that research at his company showed that paper that was shredded to a l/8-inch size or smaller began to show signs of fiber degradation--and was thus less valued by mills.

Regarding contaminants, mill companies have been investing heavily to screen out metals, adhesives and other undesirable elements that might be run through a shredding plant or truck.

Al Villamil of Viking Fibres Inc., Bensalem, Pa., said "stickies," which can include mailing labels, Post-its and promotional stickers, are a problem for mills.

David Knight of SCA Tissue North America, Neenah, Wis., noted that brown paper (such as corrugated boxes and kraft bags) commingling with office paper produces an undesirable affect at his company's tissue mills, where the company is producing white tissue. "You don't want toilet paper that's already got the brown on it before you sell it," he said.

Knight said his company has invested some $55 million in the last three-and-a-half years to combat such problems, and "I don't see that slowing down," he said.

Even with such quality issues, mills are accepting shredded paper in larger amounts and are adjusting to the problems, the panelists agreed. "Resistance to [shredded] paper is decreasing vs. even three years ago," said Villamil.

SEEKING ELECTRONICS. Recyclers and document destruction companies have largely formed workable alliances throughout the past 10 years. Destroyers of electronic information are in an earlier stage of making similar connections.

Gauging the recycling returns to be made from the obsolete electronics stream was the topic for another panel.

Handling electronic scrap carries risks and entails a number of important business decisions, said panelist Dag Adamson of Lifespan Technology Recycling, Newton Upper Falls, Mass. "It's a very different business [from document destruction]," he said. "You have to decide: What's my focus?" he noted, adding that companies must decide whether to refurbish, disassemble, erase, shred or to offer a combination of services to their clients.

The 2008 NAID Annual Conference is scheduled for April 2-4 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.

The Recycling Today staff contributed to this article.
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Publication:Recycling Today
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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