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Made to order: staying relevant with the rapidly changing paper recycling industry is a daunting task for members of ISRI's Paper Stock Industries Chapter Standards and Specifications group.

While many people blithely throw out paper recycling industry, jargon such as PS11 and No. 6 News, most do not know the complex process that is used to arrive at and define these terms. For Ralph Simon, the demands are significant. Simon is a vice president with SP Recycling Corp., Atlanta, and is also head of the Standards and Specifications Committee of the Paper Stock Industries (PSI) Chapter of the Washington-based trade association the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI).

PSI's annual "Guidelines for Paper Stock" circular, which is included in the overall ISRI "Scrap Specifications Circular," is a document that presents definitions for various grade standards, in addition to outlining acceptable practices.

Far from being a static document that remains fundamentally unchanged from year to year. Simon notes that the group that he works with is constantly receiving comments and requests about adjusting and re-shaping the document.

WHO, WANT AND WHERE. Simon, who is the point man on the committee, says that the group that helps to craft the annual document is diverse. In addition to Simon, the group consists of the present and past presidents of PSI, one other PSI official, four brokers, four paper stock dealers and four paper stock consumers. To prevent the group from becoming static, its makeup is changed regularly.

Once the committee has been assembled, the members are assigned to various regions of the country to ensure fair representation in the East, Midwest, Mountain Region and West Coast. Extending the opportunity for input even further, each of the 16 members of the committee is asked to contact four more people from their region to help investigate many of the issues that the group has identified.

This approach helps to ensure that PSI comes up with standards and definitions that accurately reflect the market at that time.

While PSI actively solicits its members for comments and input on the definitions, that doesn't mean non-PSI members cannot provide information. "Nonmembers can write a letter to ISRI to request that the issue is considered," Simon comments.

A TIMETABALE. PSI seeks to introduce any changes or submissions during its annual fall conference. After creating a hierarchy, the standards and practices subcommittee begins to work on getting feedback and comments on a variety of topics. The group then meets during the AF&PA (American Forest and Paper Association, Washington) Paper Week show and during the summer Paper Recycling Conference & Trade Show (sponsored and organized by the Recycling Today Media Group).

"We [also] request feedback at our ISRI Annual Convention and we do get lots of calls for clarification," says Simon.

While this process seems long and drawn out, Simon is quick to point out that it is highly important that the standards and specifications truly represent an important change, and not just a simple correction from a particular person.

PSI and ISRI attempt to clarify and fine-tune many of the issues that have changed the market. For example, Simon points out that PSI has eliminated sorted colored ledger. In its place, the chapter has included sorted office pack.

Despite all the group's efforts, PSI specifications are not the final word in paper stock definitions. In fact, to many it the specifications are merely a guideline that will help mills to come up with their own expectations.

ADDING VALUE. A new component to PSI's specifications has been the goal to remove the general murkiness of some of the terms. To combat this, more recent circulars have included a glossary of paper stock terms and acronyms for about 20 different grades.

Along with coming up with updated grades and specifications to reflect the changing dynamic of the paper industry, PSI and its standards and practices subgroup are seeking to develop a "Best Practices" subcommittee. This should help to improve the overall value of the paper recycling industry.

Also, Simon says the Chinese government has requested that the scrap circular be published in Chinese to help clarify the grades being shipped to China.

"The inspectors understand it (the circular), but folks in China treat it not as a guideline, but rather an absolute," he says.

While constantly wrestling with a host of issues, from problems unique to a single region or customer, to those that are wide reaching, Simon says he feels one of the largest concerns right now is the prevalence of wax in many corrugated shipments. The question involves whether this material would be considered an out throw or a prohibitive. Another area of concern is the growing influence of the document destruction industry on the paper recycling industry. This has resulted in a shifting of grade and grade specifications.

While there is no official connection between PSI and the AF&PA toward development of the specifications, PSI does work to ensure that the paper industry is able to provide significant feedback.

Many people make the assumption that the PSI circular is focused exclusively on grade definition. While this may be a key area of interest, Simon says that the circular also includes a preamble, which highlights the expectations for the buyer and the seller. Additionally, the preamble touches on the way in which the material is loaded and shipped.

Further, as the paper recycling industry grows, the circular has added a section that defines a host of terms that are used in the scrap circular and by recyclers.

These steps have been done to enhance the overall value of the "Scrap Specifications Circular."

NOT ONLY GAME IN TOWN. While PSI Specifications are widely used as a definition, or at least guideline, by many paper recyclers, for many companies in the paper recycling industry, PSI is not the only group that provides insight into grade specifications.

A number of groups in Europe have attempted to develop a universal standard for recovered fiber grades.

According to Francis Veys, director general for the BIR, while the BIR has never published recovered paper specifications, it has tried to draft a document that would combine the ISRI, Japanese and EU recovered paper specifications.

While the document was never "officialized," Veys says, it has helped international operators to make some links between the recovered paper specifications of the main regions of the world.

Veys also says that the European Recovered Paper Association--an independent European Union organization that is run from BIR's office--has agreed upon EU specifications for recovered paper together with the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI), a Brussels-based association of European Union paper producers.

However, the specifications were developed more than 25 years ago. And, despite the document being revised several times since, CEPI and the ERPA (European Recovered Paper Association) agree that the specifications need to be revised again in the near future.

"Ideally, one should have world specifications in order to harmonize as much as possible all major grades," Veys says. "Specific national or regional qualities would nevertheless still be accepted to cover some particular grades and mills' requirements.

"We are convinced," Veys continues, "that this would ultimately happen because of the globalization of the industry."

This ensures that the group is able to get enough information to make the best changes to the circular.

At the same time, a number of new dynamics are continuing to influence the paper industry. These range from the growth of single-stream recycling programs to the increase in the amount of shredded material that is replacing the more traditional office grades in light of the growth in the secure destruction industry.

While these will undoubtedly affect the various grades, Simon remarks that the overall ability of PSI member companies to stay on top of the issue will allow it to stay relevant.

The author is senior and Internet editor of Recycling Today and can be e-mailed at
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Title Annotation:Paper Specifications Update; Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc
Comment:Made to order: staying relevant with the rapidly changing paper recycling industry is a daunting task for members of ISRI's Paper Stock Industries Chapter Standards and Specifications group.(Paper Specifications Update)(Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc)
Author:Sandoval, Dan
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1U9WA
Date:Feb 1, 2005
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