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Ensuring the future of fiber recovery and utilization.

Editor's Note: This article is a result of the forest, wood and paper industry's Agenda 2020 program, which is focused on providing the industry with technology for a robust and sustainable future. Summarized here is one of the six platforms for Agenda 2020--"Fiber Recovery and Utilization."

Increased fiber recovery and improved fiber quality is critical to the long-term economic viability of U.S. recycle mills.

This article examines the specific research, development, and technology transfers needed to meet future recycled fiber demands.

The Recycle session of the Agenda 2020 Technology Summit II was held in June in conjunction with the 2004 Paper Recycling Conference. The session focused on ways to significantly increase the volume and quality of recovered fiber available for domestic mills, and identified critical technical gaps. Participants included leaders in waste paper collection, paper manufacturing, recycled paper converting, and government organizations.

There are approximately 450 paper mills in the United States. Of these, 350 use at least some recovered paper, while 160 use recovered paper exclusively as their fiber source.

With exported fiber approaching 30% of U.S. collection in 2004, the ebb and flow of recovered fiber tends to drive U.S. market pricing. In addition to wide price swings for recycled fiber, there have also been "bid-ups" in the price of mixed paper to previously unthought-of heights.


Recycling technology has not yet advanced sufficiently to meet present and future needs for energy efficiency, operating cost reductions, and fiber quality improvements. There are several factors to consider:


* World demand for fiber is increasing--particularly from China--both for old corrugated containers (OCC) and mixed paper.

* Increased recovery rates in the United States are bringing in more paper but with diminishing grade quality and with higher levels of contamination.

* Increased use of single stream collection by municipalities is further compromising quality, particularly from glass contamination.

* Without improvement in collection and sorting, export demand for recovered paper will increase the cost structure of U.S. mills.

* Quality of U.S. fiber will decrease as Asian recycle board imports increase. Asian mill capacity and exporting of packages to the United States continue to increase.

Under current conditions, inadequate sorting leads to wasted energy from transporting out-of-spec materials (non-fiber and wrong fiber) to the paper mill and eventually to the landfill. At the mill, processing inferior materials produces lower yield, quality risks, chemical loss, and a significant increase in energy consumption and product cost. To sustain our industry's competitive position, we must have dramatic innovations that increase the volume of fiber recovered, improve energy efficiency, cut costs, and improve the quality of fiber delivered to the paper machine.


Through research and development in recovery, sorting, and in-mill processes, the U.S. can recover and use an additional 5 million tons of quality fiber. Estimated system savings are US$ 500 million/yr (US$ 25/ton at the headbox) from savings in yield, transportation, chemicals, energy, lost time, and downgrade. Municipalities will also benefit through increased waste diversion and better positioning to achieve state and local recovery goals.

To move forward, the Technology Summit II Recycle Session Working Group identified targeted research, development, and technology transfer activities:

1. Develop and evaluate mechanical and automated recovered paper sorting systems to improve energy efficiency, increase sorting speed and volume, provide more consistency, and lower cost per sorted ton of processed fiber.



2. Assess return on capital investment of new sorting equipment at recovery plants vs. modifications to recycling mills in order to handle lower grade recovered papers. Currently it is not clear which area will gain the highest financial benefit from technical improvements.

3. Significantly improve paper fiber recovery and energy efficiency with wet-end equipment, including pulpers, screens, cleaners, and floatation devices. Performance of this equipment with different types of recovered paper is generally unknown (available data remains proprietary with suppliers). In addition, evaluation of new equipment technology is difficult without reliable baseline data.

4. Develop more effective stickies measurement/removal equipment and processes in mills. As pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) formulations move toward screenability, the industry must still focus on water use and energy efficiency.

5. Through the American Forest & Paper Association (AF & PA) Recovered Fiber CEO Committee, obtain government support for:

a. R & D for fiber recycling that includes sorting and separation equipment.

b. Tax incentives for equipment and other vital technology investments.

c. EPA policies and language that support recovered fiber collection and use.

d. State grants to help pulp and paper mills improve their recycling technology.

e. Improved education among federal and state government purchasers, local recycling officials, and the public for purchase of commercially available, environmentally benign adhesives.


To achieve these research objectives, a variety of stakeholders must provide matching funds, in-kind assistance, technology pilots, and support for policy initiatives. Within the specific target research areas, potential partners include:

* Recovered fiber collection/sorting: equipment manufacturers, recycling collection companies, recycling mills, EPA, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), state & local governments.

* Mill operations: Equipment manufacturers, chemical suppliers, recycling mills, university pulp and paper departments, U.S. Forest Products Lab. Institute of Paper Science and Technology (IPST), Herty Foundation, TAPPI, DOE.

* Policy initiatives: AF & PA Recovered Fiber CEO and Executive Committees (lead), Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, EPA, National Recycling Coalition, state & local governments, trade organizations (e.g. Adhesives and Sealants Council).


To effectively implement these research initiatives, the required investment would be approximately US$ 20 million over 5 years. The breakdown of cost is as follows:

* Develop and evaluate full-scale demonstration of mechanical and automated handling and sorting equipment for recovery plants (US$ 3 million).

* Assess return on capital investment of sorting equipment at recovery plant vs. recycling mill (US$ 250,000).

* Fundamental evaluation of mill process technologies and equipment (US$ 10 million).

* Develop more effective stickies monitoring and removal equipment (US$ 5 million).

* Recycling education at all levels, from public to legislative and regulatory (US$ 1 million).


As a follow-up to Tech Summit II and to meet the "path forward" objectives, the next steps are to:

* Build on the support and expertise of participants in Tech Summit II, including mill managers, recycling and collection companies, national labs, and equipment and chemical manufacturers.

* Use continuing support from the Agenda 2020 Recovered Fiber Task Group to provide research project mentoring, make mills available for pilot tests, and provide an ongoing assessment of specific recycling technology needs.

* Leverage the cooperation of AF & PA's Recovered Fiber Executive Committee and other association resources to implement policies that support increased recovered fiber and needed research. Identify sources of existing and new funding (federal and state government, manufacturers, recovered fiber industry, and others) to build effective alliances that support fiber recycling research goals.


* Why increasing fiber recovery and improving quality is critical to domestic recycle mills for energy efficiency, lower cost and global competition.

* What specific research, development, and technology transfer are needed to meet future recycled fiber demand and quality requirements.

* How we are leveraging broad industry participation to meet research goals.


* Initial results from Technology Summit II:

* "Technology Summit II targets 'The Challenge of Deployment,'" Solutions!, June 2004. (Enter product code in search field on

* "Setting the Industry's Technology Agenda," edited by Gerard Closset. Product Code: 0101R307.



Tom Friberg, Weyerhaeuser; Terry Gerhardt, Sonoco


Steve Apotheker, Portland Metro

Loreen Ferguson, SCA Tissue

David Godfrey, DOE

Christer Henricksson, American Fiber Resources

Tom Hahn, SP Recycling

Jim Hines, Sonoco

Garry Kenny, MSS

Conni Kunzler, AF & PA Consultant

Keith McKale, Weyerhaeuser

Karl Mockros, Recycle America

Art Nonni, Georgia-Pacific

Bill Sacia, Weyerhaeuser

Peter Van Dyk, Van Dyk Baler Corp.

Richard Venditti, N. Carolina State University

John Willis, CP Manufacturing


Dr. Tom Friberg (below left) is a research & development unit manager for Weyerhaeuser Co., Federal Way, Washington, USA. His bachelors degree in wood and fiber science and Ph.D. in pulp & paper science and engineering are both from the University of Washington. Over the last 30 years, he has worked in the pulp, paper and wood products industry. Areas of emphasis have been chemical and physical testing, corrosion & failure analysis, fiber use, packaging and new product development, and wood and paper recycling.

Terry Gerhardt (below center) is a 19-year veteran of Sonoco Products Co., currently serving as staff vice president, technology--industrial segment. Before joining Sonoco, he conducted research at Westvaco and the U.S. Forest Products Lab. Gerhardt holds a Ph. D. in engineering mechanics and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Areas of emphasis have been solid mechanics analysis of recycled paperboard structures, hybrid finite element formulations for stress concentrations in anisotropic materials, technology management, and math education.

Conni Kunzler has been a consultant to the paper industry on recycling for the past 7 years. She is currently AF & PA's staff representative to the Agenda 2020 Recycling Task Group. She holds masters degrees in English and Communications.


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Author:Kunzler, Conni
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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