This is the first part of a series that provide answers by industry experts to questions you have about recycling. The questions came out of Waste360’s recent webinar on the cost of recycling. For further discussion on these issues, don’t miss the Waste360 Recycling Summit in Chicago later this year.
Question: How do you see the old corrugated cardboard (OCC) and fiber markets acting in the next year?
Bill Moore, president, Moore & Associates: Things are quite unsettled in the market now, primarily because of global issues-Europe with Greece (although the late breaking news is of a settling of this) and uncertainty on China economy. The market rose nicely in the second quarter 2015, helped by increased Chinese demand. But the latest negative news out of China has slowed demand there. The very wide gap between export and domestic pricing narrowed in July, with export easing back and domestic prices moving up. So the watchword now is a lot of uncertainty. Odds are the market will stay stable, with little chance of prices falling and some chance up more move up in the balance of 2015, and the first half of 2016, based largely on economic conditions in Europe and China.
Hannah Zhao, senior economist, recovered paper, RISI: Our view on world OCC markets (2015-2016) is positive given the overall healthy paper packaging markets and the recent add of much new recycled-fiber based containerboard capacity in North America and Europe. The major risk lies in Asia, particularly China, where the economic growth continues to slow down and the uncertainty of the economy increases.
Question: What is the recovery rate in a dirty material recovery facility (MRF)? Do you have an opinion on dirty MRF vs. single-stream MRF?
Michele Nestor, president, Nestor Resources Inc.: The recovery rate differs by material or by the materials targeted for recovery. There are applications where this method makes total sense … multifamily dwellings, large sports venues, airports and as time will tell, perhaps entire cities.
Question: How are MRFs going to manage newer single serve products? i.e., coffee capsules?
Albe Zakes, global vice president, communications, TerraCycle Inc.: MRFs will have to start developing more categorized, specialized processes for certain mixed-materials items like coffee caps. We can't continue to try and fit newer packaging formats into antiquated recycling processes. The innovation and development of new recycling solutions, processes, etc. is lagging behind the innovation in packaging, creating a gap in what can economically be recycled. Specialization, while potentially creating high up-front costs, will enable MRFs and other recyclers to accept and process these specific and challenging mixed-material formats.
Michele Nestor: If you asked our mothers the price of coffee, they would tell you $5 per can. If you ask millennials, they'll tell you $5 per cup. Baby boomers were taught to buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste, but the result is a society in which 40 percent of the food we purchase is disposed. We have reached a point where a life cycle analysis of sustainability in packaging design may favor some single-serve items, even if they are not recyclable. New packaging not only defines portions, it reduces waste (and our waistlines) and prolongs shelf life. While it might not be recyclable if it is better for the environment, then recyclers have to learn to accept that.
Bill Moore: With great difficulty!