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UK paper buyers underline quality threat

United Kingdom – ‘Less plastics, cans and other material,’ declared Nick Watson, senior accounts manager for ACN Europe in calling for a badly-needed change in the quality of the UK’s recovered paper and cardboard exports. Speaking at the recent Resource Association Conference about the consequences of contamination, he insisted China will make decisions by the end of the year about who will be its business partners.

According to Watson, whose company is part of China’s Nine Dragons group, a significant proportion of material exported from the UK does not meet with the 1.5% maximum contamination limit and has come under ever-greater scrutiny owing to Operation Green Fence. He warned that the Chinese authorities are using the ‘waste exports stop’ to examine ‘all the information they can’ – in other words, who is exporting, who is fulfilling quotas, who is exporting quality and who is not. ‘Taking all this into account, licences will be issued in the New Year,’ Watson stated.

Watson was not the only speaker at the conference concerned about the quality of UK recovered paper and cardboard. ‘A lot of collection schemes are not delivering the kind of quality my paper mills need,’ complained Dr Jim Malone, European sales and purchasing director for DS Smith Recycling.

‘Customers of paper mills demand a high-quality product and measure that quality in parts per million, while I’m expected to consider input material that has between 1% and 8% rejects. No other manufacturer would be expected to accept that level of rejects in their raw materials, so why should paper makers or any other material reprocessor?’ Malone reasoned.

Caution: ‘environmental vandalism’

The sector must pull together to diminish ‘the threat to paper recycling’ posed by the increasingly popular alternative: incineration. ‘If we, as an industry and as a nation, walk blindly towards accepting incineration as a solution for the volumes of badly-sorted recyclate rather than challenge our existing collection and sorting models, then I consider this a form of environmental vandalism,’ was Malone’s verdict.

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