Paper Grades — Refocusing on Recycled
Looking to stimulate demand and create a dent in the roughly 40 percent of paper trash that comprises the nation's solid waste, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12873. The order decreed that all federal agencies should use printing and writing papers with at least 20-percent recycled fiber content by the end of 1994, and at least 30-percent recycled fiber by 1999.
By 1996, most mills began increasing the percentages of post-consumer waste in their various grades, and several new deinking mills were opened. Since that time, however, some paper companies have reported that previously opened deinking facilities have shut down, and those remaining open are not operating at full capacity.
Some experts attribute this to bad timing in the world paper climate. Reportedly, the mill openings coincided with a period during which cost for the wastepaper used to make deinked pulp was at an all-time high. At the same time, multinational companies began importing cheaper virgin pulp from mills in South America. Without a consistent market for recycled papers, some mills have kept struggling.
So, is there any hope for the returned popularity of recycled grades in what has been termed our "throwaway society"?
You bet. Just ask Sternau. Wheal-Grace has promoted eco-friendly printing processes for years, and has found that customers are very interested in recycled grades. "It used to be that you paid a premium for recycled paper," states Sternau. "But in the last year, we found that most mills and merchants have dropped the prices, so it's a level playing field."
Cunningham agrees. "It's leveled off," he states. "With all the new equipment at the mills, they're finding advantages to making recycled papers."
Since recycled grades are comparable in price to virgin papers, generating interest in recycled may just be a matter of reminding buyers of its availability and benefits.