THE PAPER Trail: Old Newspapers

Old newspapers (ONP) are the second largest grade of recovered paper in the United States. With a 1998 recovery of nearly 8.8 million tons, this category represents 20 percent of the country's total recovered paper supply.

In the solid waste management industry, ONP is an important commodity, second only by a small amount to old corrugated containers (OCC). Approximately 40 percent of the recovered paper that is collected and processed in the solid waste sector is ONP.

The large majority of ONP is sourced from residential curbside recycling programs. There are four different ONP grades, with the three post-consumer ones - No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8 -making up more than 90 percent of the tonnage.

Old Newspaper Facts and Figures: Use of Old Newspapers Prior to 1990, the largest use of ONP in the United States was in recycled paperboard (boxboard, chipboard, building materials, etc.) With the change in the production of North American newsprint with recycled content, U.S. newsprint mills now consume the largest percentage of ONP collected in the country.

Where Old Newspapers Go: According to the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), Washington, D.C., the majority of ONP is exported to Canada, Mexico and the Asia/Pacific Rim region for newsprint production abroad.

* Approximately 50% of the ONP collected in the United States goes toward the world's newsprint.

* Recycled paperboard still is an important user of this paper grade, consuming nearly 17%.

What's unusual about ONP is its large use - almost 18% - in miscellaneous paper and nonpaper products. This category includes molded pulp, construction and bulking materials, hydro-mulch and animal bedding. The largest use is in construction for cellulose insulation, which has been growing rapidly through the 1990s.

ONP Grades: The Washington, D.C.-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries' Paper Stock Industry's definitions of recovered paper are used widely in recycling operations. The four ONP grades are:

* PSI #6 - News. Consists of baled newspaper such as those typically generated from newspaper drives and curbside collections. Prohibitive materials may not exceed 1%. Total outthrows may not exceed 5%.

* PSI #7 - Deink Quality. Consists of baled, sorted, fresh newspaper that isn't sunburned. Contains no more than the normal percentage of rotogravure and colored sections. May contain magazines. No prohibitive materials permitted. Total outthrows may not exceed one quarter of 1%.

* PSI #8 - Special News Deink Quality. Consists of baled, sorted, fresh newspapers, not sunburned, free from magazines, white blank, pressroom over-issues and paper other than news. Contains no more than the normal percentage of rotogravure and colored sections. This grade must be tare-free. No prohibitive materials permitted. Total outthrows may not exceed one quarter of 1%.

* PSI #9 - Over-Issue News. Consists of unused, overrun newspapers printed on newsprint, baled or securely tied in bundles. Contains no more than the normal percentage of rotogravure and colored sections. No prohibitive materials permitted. No outthrows permitted.

* ONP #6, widely referred to as "board grade news," primarily is used in the recycled paperboard sector. The solid waste management industry is the largest producer of this grade in the United States.

* ONP grades #7 and #8 are the primary types used by the newsprint sector. ONP #7, commonly referred to as an ONP/Old Magazines mix, has been gaining importance as a grade.

The use of flotation deinking technology in the world's newsprint mill sector requires coated groundwood (old magazines - OMG) for its deinking performance. In the early 1990s, as flotation deinking technology grew, most of the coated groundwood was supplied by use of source-separated magazines. As the newsprint mills have become more comfortable with recycling, using a mixed ONP/OMG pack (#7 ONP) has been gaining ground.

Another important feature of ONP compared to other grades of recovered paper is that a fairly high percentage of the material moves in the loose form from the generator to the end-user mill. Because loose ONP is fairly dense, a full weight, semi-trailer generally can be obtained.

In the 1970s, the Media General Group, Richmond, Va., with its 100% recycle newsprint mills, fostered a system of dropoff collection and transporting ONP loose directly to their mills.

The next wave of partial recycle newsprint mills (in the early 1990s) relied largely on baled ONP. However, as the decade ends and the new millennium begins, the trend is for newsprint mills to handle more ONP in loose form. The efficiency here is obvious - eliminate the baling costs.

Recycle Newsprint Operations: After several years of minimal capacity additions in the North American recycle newsprint industry, there has been a flurry of new recycling projects announced and under investigation in the past year. Many of these projects have been in the United States, but some are in Canada. An important driver for some of this activity has been changing existing virgin bleached pulping systems at newsprint mills. A set of environmental regulations, enacted by the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the "Cluster Rules," more tightly regulate air and water emissions from virgin paper mills. This will require significant capital expenditures for pulping and bleaching retrofits at existing mills, and installing recycle systems have become an attractive, cost-effective option. The Donohue Industries Inc. project at Sheldon Texas, and US Alliance's Coosa Pines Alabama recycling capacity increases are prime examples.

However, there are limited new newsprint capacity additions in North America. It is expected that one of the projects in the New York area has a good likelihood of success. This probably will come at the expense of high-cost virgin newsprint capacity in Canada. Newsprint consumption in the United States is static, and the mill industry has been retiring high-cost capacity in recent years and will continue to do so for the next few years.ONP demand for the uses in the "other" category and net exports are expected to continue to increase as they have over the past 10 years.

Use of Old Newspapers: ONP uses in the "for other uses" and "net exports" categories added nearly 2 million tons of new demand over the past decade. Cellulose insulation production is forecasted to continue to grow, along with exports to both Mexico and the Asia/Pacific Rim.

Future of No. 8 ONP Demand: An important factor in the demand, and consequently the price, for ONP grades is the North American newsprint mill operating rate. The operating rate is the percentage of installed capacity being used in a product sector at a given time. The rate, including the United States and Canada, is relevant because it essentially is one marketplace. A high percentage of Canadian-produced newsprint comes into the U.S. marketplace.

Conclusion: ONP grades, an important commodity to the solid waste management sector, will continue to have demand growth. Much of this will be based on export use and pulping rationalization at existing North American newsprint mills.

Several Moore & Associates' fiber availability studies in the past year have noted for the first time the difficulties in obtaining a new supply of high-quality ONP for future recycled newsprint projects. With a high penetration of curbside recycling programs in North American communities already in place, the number of new programs starting will be minimal. It is expected that the focus on the collection of ONP will change from expansion to optimization and obtaining more materials from existing curbside programs.