On paper, it looks good

Paper is perhaps one of the main products that people think of as recyclable. Indeed, two years ago, in the EU, 70% of it was recycled. But how can this rate be improved?

Waste Management World asked some paper experts, drawn from industry and the academic world, for their views on this.

Jori Ringman-Beck, of the Confederation of European Paper Industries, argues that costs need to be reduced, and the quality of input materials needs to be increased. Technology should be improved, and recyclability of products built into their design.

Malcolm Lawson, of Saica Natur UK, feels that businesses need to view waste as a resource. Whilst the overall EU recycling rate is 70%, this is an average; some countries are not achieving this. The UK’s businesses are increasingly viewing waste as a resource, and this needs to happen in other countries so their rates can rise.

Voluntary paper recovery is important, according to Cathy Foley, of the American Forest and Paper Association. Her view is that it has “fostered a dynamic marketplace” in which recycling is encouraged – and the industry continues its efforts to increase recovery.

Richard Venditti, a professor at North Carolina State University, however, questions whether a rate of 100% can be achieved. This is because, in his view, not all products should come from recycled paper:

“Some coated graphic papers or filtration devices with high performance standards may benefit, from an overall life cycle view, from the use of ultra-homogenous virgin fibres.”

Stephen Almond, of TOMRA Sorting UK, is a sales engineer who, perhaps unsurprisingly, thinks that technology is crucial to increasing quality and keeping paper from becoming part of refuse-derived fuel. Technology can, he argues, recover paper at very high quality levels.

Recycling Lives is always interested to see what the future of recycling holds, and always gives considerable weight to expert opinion on the subject. The range of views set out above about paper might equally be true of any other material, such as plastic or metal; we feel that the same principles usually apply, no matter what the waste product is.

This is why we constantly invest in technology to make sure we are being as efficient as possible. We are dedicated to developing innovative processes to recycle as much material as possible, and we promote reuse whenever we can.

One area we have developed is manufacturing. We make strong beams from plastics and tiles from glass, ensuring that waste is used as raw materials. This means that a circular economy is being achieved.

Whatever happens in the paper industry, it is also important that social value is added to the community. One area in which we do this at Recycling Lives is through our social welfare charity. Funded by our commercial activities, it helps homeless people to find work and accommodation, and work their way back to independence with support.