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Recovered paper: Quality First message is hitting home

United Kingdom – The Chinese Customs are now using x-ray machines to check every container entering the country, the UK Recycling Association has urged. The good news is that, some seven months after the launch of its dedicated Quality First campaign, there has been ‘real progress’ in driving the quality message down the recovered paper supply chain in the UK. The association says further moves are required to strengthen the partnership with local authorities ‘because we simply have to get the infeed right’, insists TRA’€™s chief executive Simon Ellin.

‘This could even mean we introduce our own TRA quality stamp of approval,’ he told Recycling International following the first-ever Quality First Recycling Conference, held in London this month.

Some of the biggest successes of the campaign’s engagement process to date have been with governments, according to Ellin. TRA has made key new contacts not only within UK government circles but also ‘at a very high level within China’, not least as a result of Ellin’s own visit to the country late last year.

‘We are looking to do the same again this year and to have UK government representation on that trip so our officials can see for themselves that China is very important to the UK and that it is not a dumping ground for substandard material,’ he said.

Noting that China consumes ‘virtually half’ of all the recovered fibre collected in the UK, Ellin pointed out: ‘China’s quality requirements are now at least as high as UK requirements but the jeopardy attached to getting the quality wrong for China is even greater.’

The major objective of the Quality First initiative is to improve recovered paper quality for both domestic and overseas consumers in order for the UK recovered paper industry to remain competitive in a global market into which it supplied a record-breaking 4.932 million tonnes of exports last year.

In a survey conducted by TRA at the London conference, 59% of respondents considered poor material quality to be the main problem confronting the recovered paper industry, followed by legislative ambiguity on 34%. By contrast, 2% worried about global competition and even fewer considered illegal trade to be the major threat.

‘The fact is that if we produce poor-quality material, global competition is insignificant,’ commented Ellin. ‘Unless our quality is a match for that produced elsewhere, we might just as well shut up shop.’

The conference flagged up the need for a full supply chain approach whereby local authorities, recycling and waste management companies, product designers and brands, retailers, exporters and material purchasers work together rather than separately, taking responsibility for their collective impacts on material quality.

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