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NERC Releases Latest Update on Increased Capacity to Use Recycled Paper

NWRA Publishes Update on Recyclables Market

The Northeast Recycling Council's (NERC) has published its seventh and latest update to its Summary of Announced Increased Capacity to Use Recycled Paper report.  This update reflects continuing progress to use more recycled paper in North America.  Half of the projects are completed and others are moving towards their projected opening dates. Download the most recent report.

This update includes projects at 30 mills, of which 15 have been completed. The 15 completed projects include three new mills.  When NERC first published this list in November, 2018, it included new capacity at 17 mills, of which three projects were completed. 

The list of additional recycled paper capacity includes totally new paper mills, expansion of existing capacity at paper packaging mills and conversions of printed paper machines at existing mills to produce packaging paper (e.g. from newsprint to packaging).  The list also includes several mills that are now producing recycled fiber pulp for export in addition to making packaging paper. It also includes two unique new facilities.  A mill designed to use food contaminated paper from commercial sources is now operating.   A facility designed to produce paper pulp and plastic pellets using beverage cartons and aseptic packages as its primary feedstock is not yet open.

The majority of new capacity increases in this list are for mills producing linerboard and corrugated medium.  They will use old corrugated containers (OCC), often called “cardboard boxes”, as their feedstock.  They are unlikely to use mixed paper, whether derived from residential or commercial recycling programs, unless their stock preparation system allows for its use.  However, up to half of these mills plan to use mixed paper although it is likely to be a minor input.  Several mills, however, plan to consume significant amounts of residential mixed paper (RMP) which is collected at curbsides throughout the country.  Two of those mills are now operating.  Because the price for mixed paper tracks that of old corrugated containers, increased capacity and market value for old corrugated containers normally increases the price paid for residential mixed paper.

Whether or not all of the new capacity is built depends on overall economic circumstances and demand for the final products.  Announcement of a new mill does not guarantee it will be built.  One planned conversion is now on hold.  Total announced new capacity, if all projects are completed, will use more than 5 million TPY of new OCC and mixed paper.  Announced new capacity generally reflect what the mill will produce when it is operating at full capacity, not when it initially opens.

NERC has been reporting on national investment in paper recycling infrastructure since November 2018. The report has been updated seven times - April, June, August, November 2019, March 2020, and January 2021.

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