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Recycling the paper forest.

Many American households have added a new routine to the night-before-trash-day ritual. In addition to emptying trash baskets, many of us now scurry around the, house gathering stacks of newspapers and carefully separated plastics, glass, and aluminum.

With landfills brimming across the country and most citizens adopting the NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) response to the siting of new landfills, communities are turning to recycling as a way to slow the tide of trash.

It seems some folks have been waiting for this for a long time. "When curbside recycling started in this area, one guy was giving us papers from the 60s," reports one hauler of recyclables. "Now he's gotten up into the 80s."

Environmentalists regret only that it took Americans until the 11th hour to begin widespread recycling. But now that many of us have accepted the reuse-it mentality, everything is as it should be, right? Look again: With more and more communities adding newspaper recycling programs every week and with only a handful of mills geared up to recycle newsprint, some observers fear that a glut of newspapers might trash the momentum recycling has gained in recent months.

Gone are the days when the local scout troop or civic organization could raise funds by collecting papers. Many towns now pay contractors to haul the newspapers away or rent warehouse space until the market for old newsprint improves. Some communities have been forced into the awkward position of collecting the residents' neatly sorted papers, only to toss them on the dump with the rest of the trash.

Recycling centers in Indianapolis stopped accepting newspapers on August I of last year. In New Jersey, which in 1987 became the first state to enact a mandatory recycling law, the Office of Recycling last fall exempted any counties in which recycling proves to be more expensive than landfilling.

Separating newspapers and other recyclables from trash is not the same as recycling if the material doesn't end up reused, warns Red Caveney, president of the American Paper Institute (API), the national trade association of the pulp, paper, and paperboard industry.

Caveney suggests that recycling programs be "phased in" to minimize oversupplies and to allow time to find appropriate markets. But even an initial glut, he says, "will over time lead to increased recycling."

The most obvious market is the newspaper industry, so it is no surprise that publishers have come under fire for not using more recycled paper. Florida is now taxing newspapers for using virgin newsprint, with an offsetting credit for using recycled paper. Similar legislation has been proposed in at least nine other states.

Connecticut recently enacted a law requiring publishers to use newsprint that is at least 20 percent recycled fiber by 1993. The recycled component must eventually be increased to 90 percent, by the state's new law.

James Burke, president of Garden State Paper Company, a recycler of newsprint, claims that 90 percent is not feasible since recycling can reclaim only 80 percent of the original fiber. As recycled paper is itself recycled, that overall percentage drops even more.

Wisconsin recently came to grips with this reality when it modified its goal of 50 percent recycled fiber by 1995 to 17 percent by 2001.

Much of the criticism that led to these proposed laws was levied by environmental groups that charge newspapers with being hypocritical when they do not use recycled newsprint but at the same time condemn other polluters. The plastic packaging industry has been compelled to deal with the trash it creates, often by newspaper stories and editorials taking that industry to task. Now newspapers must do the same, environmentalists say.

Most newspaper publishers reply that they are using as much recycled newsprint as logistics and economics presently allow, and they dispute laws that would interfere with the market forces that have driven such decisions in the past. The American Newspaper Association disagrees vehemently with such controls, saying that newsprint regulation threatens the free press upon which U.S. democracy was built.

Those of you who buy the Los Angeles Times read a paper that is approximately 80 percent reused fiber, which is about the most any recycling enthusiast could hope for. By itself, the Times has made California a leader in the movement toward recycled newsprint. Smaller newspapers are having more trouble expanding their recycled-fiber content.

The limited number and capacity of paper-recycling mills, which de-ink newsprint and then recycle it, have often been blamed for creating the bottleneck. In 1961, the first de-inking mill, Garden State Paper Company (GSP), opened in Garfield, New Jersey. Only a few additional mills have been built since then. Three are near the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles,, Chicago, and Atlanta, and three others are located in Arizona, Oregon, and Michigan. New mills are on the drawing boards, but they are several years and many millions of dollars away.

According to Garden State's james Burke, the market for recycled newsprint is presently a more critical factor than the number of mills. Even with all the newsprint being collected in New Jersey and throughout the Northeast, Burke anticipates a temporary shutdown of GSP to allow the market to catch up with supply.

"Right now, the newsprint business is in a terrible slump," Burke says. Annual newsprint consumption has leveled off, and of 12 of what he calls world-class paper mills, only two are using recycled fiber.

In the Northeast, 81 percent of the newsprint consumed is imported from Canada. Thus, GSP's typical competitor is a Canadian mill that uses all or mostly virgin fiber. The competition between Canada's paper mills and southern U.S. mills is less stiff, but overall, 58 percent of the nation's paper comes from Canada's forests.

"It's a historical thing," Burke says. The paper industry started early in Canada, and newsprint has always been imported duty-free from our northern neighbor, he states.

Will increased newsprint recycling in the U.S. affect this longstanding trade alliance with Canada? Perhaps more important, how will recycling affect U.S. forests? The U.S. Forest Service recently researched what would happen to the nation's forests if recycling of all waste paper including newsprint) increased to 39 percent of all fiber used in making paper.

Our current level is about 20 percent, according to Richard Haynes, a research forester with the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland, Oregon. An increase to 39 percent would bring the U.S. up to the level of other developed countries, such as Japan and some European nations.

Haynes' report indicates that a recycling rate of 39 percent would mean 17.6 percent less pulpwood needed by the year 2040. However, his study projects that the demand for forest products overall will drop only 3.7 percent by 2040, because some of the pulpwood saved will be used in the manufacture of other products, particularly lumber.

Haynes' study also suggests that by 2010, just 20 years from now, the lowered demand for pulpwood will drop softwood timber prices 17.7 percent in the southern U.S., making the region more competitive compared to Canada.

At present, virgin fiber costs about the same as recycled fiber. james Burke at GSP declines to give a cost comparison of recycled to virgin newsprint, except to say that the recycled fiber is "fully competitive."

Haynes concludes his report by proposing this: If recycling lowers the demand for virgin fiber, the fiber will become even less expensive in the future, which will do nothing to motivate increased or continued recycling. Waste-paper recycling in the U.S. is up less than one percent since 1976 and is down almost 10 percent since 1952, according to Haynes, who fears the long-term downward trend will continue. He therefore argues for market controls to guarantee the "societal' benefits-less dependence on imports, more jobs here in the U.S., fewer disposal problems and costs. The American Paper Institute, on the other hand, warns against government intervention in recycling programs. Federal initiatives, no matter how well intentioned, have the potential to undermine the independent network of collectors, suppliers, producers, and customers of recyclable products," says API's Red Caveney.

Like Caveney, GSP's Burke projects that "in the long term, the present oversupply of newsprint will work its way out, as there is already a greater insistence on using recycled newsprint and as existing paper mills begin to recycle." According to API, 500 of the country's 600 mills producing pulp, paper, paperboard, or related products use at least 10 percent waste paper as a raw material in their manufacturing process. Two hundred of these mills depend almost entirely on waste paper.

APT officials like to point out that the U.S. paper industry started as a recycling industry in 1690 near Philadelphia, where America's first paper was made from rags. Thus, recycling and the paper industry in America both celebrate a tricentennial this year. Burke, Caveney, and other experts across the country stress that education should be incorporated in today's recycling programs. -Initially, there was not enough emphasis on educating individuals within households," Burke says. "Separating recyclables does not mean separating garbage."

Due to the lack of an educational component, GSP 'has seen the quality of its paperstock degenerate in direct proportion to the number of municipalities getting into-the recycling business,- according to a GSP statement.

Plastic wrappers, telephone books, magazines, and junk mail are examples of contaminants turning up in bundles of newspapers at the recycling mills. Burke says a good rule of thumb is to think of everything that is delivered as part of the newspaper package, even ad fliers, as something that can be recycled along with newspapers.

Another point that needs to be made in educating the public, most experts agree, is that recycling is not-and cannot-be the only answer to the solid-waste problem. "There will be times when it makes more economic sense to channel recyclables to another disposal option, "Caveney stated last July in testimony before a Congressional subcommittee.

The three alternatives generally considered in addition to recycling are waste reduction, waste-to-energy plants, and landfilling. The last two solutions may be hard-sells, since it has been the public's concern over landfilling and incineration that has given recycling such a boost.

The waste-to-energy option is defined in API literature as "the burning of waste to recover its energy value and reduce volume.- Siting an incineration plant generally ignites the same public sentiments as does locating a landfill. And the ash generated at a waste-to-energy plant ultimately must be landfilled.

Last fall, anti-incineration activists in New Jersey held a "smoke-out" on the same day the American Cancer Society held its annual smoke-out against cigarettes. The demonstrators pushed for increased recycling and the production of fewer throwaways as alternatives to garbage burning.

Recyclers argue that a combination of all four options is essential to a successful waste-management program. Paper is considered the most versatile of all wastes since it lends itself to all of the disposal choices. Paper commingled with food waste or paper that has been recycled over and over again, however, contaminates or interrupts the recycling process and is better left to incineration or landfilling, according to some observers.

Look to options other than recycling is inevitable, say mill owners, if for no other reason than this: Newsprint fibers can be reused only a few times before they become too short for use in future newsprint. They then must become some other product or wind up in the waste stream.

In the meantime, an expansion of end markets for recycled newsprint will help balance the supply-demand equation. Boxboard is one use that might be expanded, especially for newsprint that has already been recycled a number of times. Researchers are finding new and improved uses for shredded newsprint. It is a cheap, efficient thermal insulator when made fire-resistant; and when used as bedding for farm animals, it is less expensive and more absorbent than straw. Though it eventually ends up in the landfill, shredded newsprint degrades quicker than stacked newspapers.

According to API, the U.S. is the world's major exporter of waste paper. Several European and Asian countries look to the U.S. for used fiber because they lack our forest resources.. Japan is importing increasing amounts of old U.S. newspapers and reportedly recovers 94 percent of its own. These overseas markets might be expanded, at least until demand catches up with supply in this country.

"We didn't get into the solid-waste crisis yesterday," Burke says. "It's taken us 200 years, and we're not going to get out of it overnight."

The good news is that in the world of waste management, there's more than, one way to skin a cat. With landfills closing and disposal costs (read taxes) rising, the newsprint glut and solid-waste management crisis will be addressed for more than just environmental reasons.

It's simply becoming too expensive to pollute. And the environment can't help but benefit from using old newsprint for something other than wrapping garbage.


1) Newsprint is brought in on trucks and unloaded onto the floor. A bulldozer pushes it onto a conveyor, which drops it into the pulper.

2) In the pulper, paper is immersed in water and tom apart by rotating steel blades. Chemicals are added to dissolve ink. Water and fiber solution (called slurry') is now about one percent fiber.

3) Slurry is pumped into continuous pulper, where debris is screened out The slurry is then moved into a reservoir for intermediate and fine screening. it then goes to three-stage washer where ink is suspended in water and drained away to waste treatment plant.

4) Fiber slurry is formed into paper. It is sprayed between two fabric belts, which remove water. Paper moves in a continuous sheet at 35 mph. At this point, paper is 17 percent fiber.

5) Paper goes to the presser. Steel milers squeeze the paper, which is held by blanket like belts, three times. Paper is now 42 percent fiber.

6) Paper crosses unsupported to the dryer, where belt carries it around heated cans, each six feet in diameter. Dryer temperature is 250 degrees F. Paper is smoothed between steel milers during the last phase of drying. Paper is 92 percent fiber.

7) Paper is smoothed again outside the dryer and wound onto large reels.

8) Large reels go to the winder, which cuts the paper into various widths and winds it onto cardboard tubes.

9) Rolls of paper are passed down by elevator to conveyor belts to be wrapped, bar coded, crimped and stacked. Electronic eyes activate kickers that push the rolls to paper storage areas.

10) Rolls of paper are loaded for delivery by truck or rail. The recycling process takes about two hours. in 1988, 13,986,000 tons of newsprint were consumed in the U.S. Of that, about 4,500,000 tons, or 33 percent, was reclaimed.


When the recycling issue comes up, magazine editors are prone to give the pat answer that their product tends to have a longer shelf life-i.e., is recycled in the sense that magazines tend to be passed around to several readers. Audubon editor Les Line, for example, suggests that readers recycle their copy of Audubon at the local library or other institutions.

Today magazines such as AMERICAN FORESTS need to do more than give simplistic answers, An analysis of the paper used to produce AmERiCAN FORESTS indicates that the recycled-fiber content averages 19 percent. The breakdown is 40 percent recycled fiber in the cover stock, 50 percent on the 16 bulk-stock pages like the one you're reading now, and 10 percent throughout the rest of the magazine.

Sixty-four of AFs usual 80 inside pages are printed on paper supplied by Niagara Paper Company of Niagara, Wisconsin. Ray Pitsch, Niagara's marketing development manager, says that achieving better than a 10 percent average for those pages will require some modification and upgrading of the paper machines, which Niagara does not foresee in the near future.

There is no such thing as 100 percent recycled paper, says John Jordan, a senior accounts manager at Westvaco, which supplies the coated paper that is the cover of this magazine.

"Overall, we use up to 50 percent recycled fiber," Jordan reports, "but you have to have some virgin pulp to hold the product together." He is also quick to point out that the recycled fiber used to produce magazines does not come from curbside recycling programs but from what the industry calls pulp substitutes-which include the trim and cuttings from envelopes, business forms, ledgers, and computer printout papers,

According to Jordan, the current war on waste is as much a function of cost as it is a matter of conscience. "Fiber is very expensive," Jordan says, and paper mills are feeling the landfill crunch just like everybody else.

Paul Cameron, accounts manager at Hennepin Paper Company in Little Falls, Minnesota, cites another reason for the war on waste: government mandates. " With the increased focus on recycling, a lot of paper companies are moving toward cost-mandated recycling programs," Cameron says. "It doesn't behoove us to wait until the government mandates become effective."

Sixteen pages of each issue of AMERICAN FORESTS are printed on paper supplied by Hennepin Paper. Cameron reports that the recycling percentage of these pages increased from about 40 percent since company policy set 50 percent as a minimum beginning in January of this year.

The next question: "Is AF recyclable?"

The biggest difference between magazines and newspapers is that most magazines are printed at least partially on glossy stock. This is the case with AFs cover and 64 of the inside pages. The glossy substance is usually a clay coating that can add to the expense of recycling and, if not removed prior to repulping, can weaken the recycled product.

John Jordan of Westvaco claims that the coating does not present as great a problem to recycling as does the ink. Bleaching out the ink decimates the fiber's strength, which renders it nonrecyclable for the same quality of paper, he says. in other words, recycled magazines do not generally become magazines the second time around.

Customer Service Supervisor Patrick Aho reports that Hart Press, AF's printer, collects all its paper waste for recycling, even though the cost benefits of doing so in recent months have gone "down the tubes." Hart Press, located in Long Prairie, Minnesota, prints AmERiCAN FORESTS and some 180 other publications.

Given percentages of recycled fiber as high as those employed in producing AMERICAN FORESTS, it does not look like magazine publishers will be coming under pressure to increase those percentages, unlike the newspaper industry. (See main article.) Even newspaper publishers are breathing a sigh of relief as they watch some of the new recycling regulations lose speed.


Though our "brown pages" like the one you are holding have as much recycled fiber as any magazine pages you'll find these days, the paper is somewhat limiting from an editorial standpoint. The bulky, uncoated, fibrous stock tends to soak up printing inks, resulting in less-than-ideal reproduction-especially of photos.

For that reason, we have been searching-with the help of our printer, Hart Press-for a replacement stock that takes ink better, has a high recycled-fiber content, and is reasonably priced like this Hennepin stock. Sofar, we've found some very attractive recycled stocks, but all have been prohibitively expensive.

We welcome any suggestions readers may have.-THE EDITORS


Producing New Age Journal takes an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 trees a year. But the Boston-based magazine has decided to replace the trees used in producing it during 1990.

Working with a Los Angeles marketing firm, Teamwork Promotions, the magazine donated money to the American Forestry Association's Global ReLeaf campaign for large-scale tree planting.

"Our long-range goal," say,,; publisher David Thorne, "is to form a coalition of publishers, not just to plant trees but to put economic pressure on the paper industry to develop an affordable, high-quality, glossy paper made from recycled fibers-something that is currently unavailable."-FOLIO MAGAZINE


Warning: This magazine may be hazardous to your health.

It's no secret that all paper that's white-i.e., bleached-contains toxic dioxins. The pressure is on for paper mills to find alternatives to bleaching-which could mean higher prices and poorer-quality paper.

The danger is to our air and water, not from holding AMERICAN FORESTS in our hands. Paper mills currently release small amounts of dioxin into the air, and when magazines are tossed into landfills, dioxins can leach into water tables.

Paper mills are feeling pressure to develop alternative methods of bleaching. Sweden has ordered the use of an alternative process employing oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. But U.S. regulation of paper mills could be a long way off, since changing the current process involves considerable investments.

Paper-industry officials claim that only a small percentage of our total dioxin exposure originates from the bleaching process. Still, many paper companies are researching alternatives.-FOLIO MAGAZINE
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:includes related information
Author:Boerner, Deborah A.
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jul 1, 1990
Previous Article:Resurrection of a forgotten forest.
Next Article:Israel: a national passion for trees.

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