The World Wastes you hold in your hand today may become tomorrow's news, as this and other magazines, catalogs and other coated paper (OMG) are increasingly being recycled into newsprint at today's paper mills.
Technological improvements that enable paper companies to de-ink OMG, allowing it to be recycled along with newspapers (ONP), have spurred the increased capabilities for recycling the material into newsprint. In the past, because OMG was difficult to recycle, it was considered a contaminant and was banned from many recycling programs.
In response to increased pressure to include post-consumer recycled materials into the paper-making process, growing numbers of recycled paper manufacturers have incorporated the new technology.
Today, de-inking processes have changed from washing to flotation systems that use the clay from glossy papers to float ink off the pages and enable newsprint mills to use OMG as a substitute for virgin fiber. Since 1989, the number of mills that produce large amounts of recycled newsprint has increased from nine to 27. And those mills have greatly increased their capacity to recycle OMG in North America, from 270,000 tons in 1990 to nearly 1 million tons in 1993.
As researchers at the Minnesota Office of Waste Management (MOWM) have discovered in their recent report to the state legislature, the demand for OMG currently exceeds the supply - a unique situation in recycling markets.
Minnesota's snapshot of the state of OMG recycling is "pretty representative of all areas of the country," said Bill Moore, a consultant with Thompson Avant International in Atlanta. Last year, despite poor economic conditions for the paper industry, OMG was probably the strongest grade among recyclable paper markets, according to Moore (see chart on page 11).
The growth of OMG recycling in Minnesota is expected to continue. The state generated about 85,000 tons of OMG in 1992, which comprises less than 2 percent of the total amount of municipal solid waste (MSW). Approximately 7,600 tons, or 9 percent, of that amount was recycled, and that number was predicted to double in 1993. Most curbside collection programs in the state now include OMG as a recyclable material.
Yet Moore sees room for improvement. "More organized drives are fertile territory for collection," he said. "The amount of OMG collected at curbside has been somewhat disappointing in comparison to ONP." He points to the fact that most households and businesses tend to hoard magazines rather than discard them daily as they do newspapers.
To improve the supply of OMG, the MOWM report recommends that the state take the following actions:
* Provide information about end-market specifications;
* Encourage cooperation and coordination among programs within regions to lower collection costs and improve marketability;
* Provide assistance to local governments that are evaluating whether or how to incorporate OMG into existing recycling programs; and
* Provide incentives or assistance in securing new processing equipment.
To encourage endmarket growth, the researchers recommend that the state educate buyers about choosing recycled-content paper, especially newsprint. The Minnesota Magazine Publishers Network has been formed to increase OMG recycling by making their magazines recycling-friendly from conception throughout their life span.
While OMG also can be recycled into tissue and towel products, the report states that this market is not expected to experience growth. But continued development of advanced equipment in America's paper mills may lead to innovative new uses for the materials in the future.