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Updated: 1 hour 14 min ago

Plastics Recycling 2018: Beyond the ban

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 07:41
Pictured above, from left: Dylan de Thomas, Brent Bell, Pablo Leon and Hamilton Wen

Postconsumer plastic scrap has been a primary target of the import bans China has introduced this year. Additionally, import licenses for plastic scrap have been harder to come by, while import quotas have been reduced.

Panelists during the second plenary session, China’s Impact – The Ban and Beyond, during Plastics Recycling 2018 discussed the impact of China’s actions on the plastics recycling industry. The event, organized by Resource Recycling, was Feb. 19-21 in Nashville, Tennessee.

“China is completely off the table,” said Hamilton Wen, director of California-based Newport CH International’s plastics division. As a result, the company’s plastics brokerage business has experienced a “complete upheaval,” he added.

While Newport CH is looking at other markets worldwide, sales come down to quality, he said. “It is no longer a seller’s market. Now it is who has the best material.”

Pablo Leon, Asia manager for the Spanish company Fosimpe SL, with operations in Shanghai, said China’s actions should not have come as a surprise. “The bans have been rumored for some time.”

However, Leon added that he believed that China has gone too far with its actions.

Brent Bell, vice president of recycling for Waste Management, Houston, said that 30 percent of the tons the company processes are exported, with the primary destination historically having been China.

In response to China’s actions, the company has developed alternative markets in India, Southeast Asia and even the U.S. for the nearly 30 percent of its tonnage that was previously shipped primarily to China, he said.

Wen said Southeast Asia offered a tenuous alternative to shipping to China, however, citing problems at the ports in the region related to the “sheer amount of volume” being shipped. Additionally, he said he felt it was only a matter of time before these countries started to enact laws and procedures similar to those China has adopted.

Dylan de Thomas, vice president of industry collaboration with The Recycling Partnership, Falls Church, Virginia, agreed, saying, “Other countries are looking to China for what they want to do in the future.”

He added,” I’m bullish on domestic capacity, personally.”

De Thomas and Bell agreed that educating residents on what is and is not acceptable for recycling is an important factor, as it affects the degree of inbound material contamination material recovery facilities (MRFs) experience. 

Bell said contamination rates of 0.5 percent, as China has specified for incoming plastic scrap shipments, will be difficult to achieve with 15 percent inbound contamination rates at MRFs.

Reducing contamination at the MRF hinges on resident education, which Bell said was a “hard exercise to go through” and that there are no “silver bullets” that can apply in all situations.

As a MRF operator, Bell said, it is important for WM to talk with the communities it serves to see if they still want their recycling programs to include recyclables that may have limited demand and value.

The changes in China’s policies toward imported scrap have created real challenges for municipal programs, de Thomas said, with communities re-evaluating the materials their recycling programs accept. 

While he said improving quality was a “big part” of the answer to the questions posed by China’s recent actions, demand for recycled plastics also must increase.

Bell agreed, saying, “We need demand to exist to make the recycling system work.”

To that end, WM is talking with companies about including recycled content in their products, he said.

While Bell said he supports China’s effort to clean up its environment and have the material quality the country’s consuming companies deserve, he would have liked to have seen a longer time frame for implementation of the government’s changes to import policies.

Leon said he felt the Chinese government “may have gone too far,” adding that “all the plastics they were receiving were not junk.”

“There will be markets for low-grade plastics,” Wen said. “They will take time to develop.”

He continued, “This material has value. It will get recycled somewhere.”


Nine Dragons reports half-year sales and profit increases

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 01:00
Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons Paper (Holdings) Limited has announced its unaudited results for the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 2017. The company reports a sales increase of 34 percent to $4 billion in the half-year, and gross profits that rose by 80 percent compared to the second half of 2016. Nine Dragons also indicates its profit margin rose from 18.3 percent in late 2016 to 24.5 percent in late 207.

In its management discussion and analysis, the firm’s executives say they have developed strategies to cope with the Chinese government’s recovered fiber import restrictions.

The analysis authors write, “As government environmental policy becomes more determined and stringent, and environmental enforcement becomes more extensive and rigorous, [the] group has adopted a proactive strategy to achieve the appropriate balance between selling prices, sales volume and inventory levels for optimal profitability, and has recorded historical high sales revenue and profits during the period.”

In describing its strategy, Nine Dragons’ managers write, “Although the import of recovered paper into China has become more restrictive, the group is still able to maintain a flexible procurement strategy that is based on the selection and purchase of raw materials offering the most optimal cost-value relationship by closely monitoring the market price trends of different sources. The purchase value of domestic recovered paper accounted for approximately 57.3 percent of the total value of the group’s purchase of recovered paper in the period.”

In the outlook section of its analysis, the company’s managers portray Nine Dragons as a firm that can benefit from paper mill capacity cuts in China, and also hints that the scrap import restrictions may yet pose problems.

“Non-compliant capacities in the packaging paperboard industry will continue to be shut down,” write the company’s managers. “New capacities of Nine Dragons Paper will offer more high-quality products to replace low-quality products in the market. Nevertheless, new capacities are expected to emerge during certain periods and imported raw materials will also be tightened, representing challenges to be met by the group.”

Projecting optimism, the managers add, “Nine Dragons Paper will adopt an effective strategy to adjust for changing supply-demand dynamics in the market, and enhance upstream and downstream integration along the supply chain in order to create the optimal synergy for the best shareholders’ value in the long term.”


Torlizzi Base Metals Report: Aluminum’s supply situation is unclear

Wed, 02/28/2018 - 00:55
Aluminum prices in late February 2018 drifted slightly downward, but remain within sight of a six-year London Metal Exchange (LME) high of $2,290.50 reached in January 2018.

A J.P. Morgan analysis, however, notes that Shanghai Futures Exchange (AHFE) aluminum inventories “continue to surge over the last six months, increasing by some 90 percent.” This has caused the premium of SHFE to LME aluminum to shrink to only $73 per metric ton, versus the five-year average of $305 per metric ton.

J.P. Morgan also notes, “There are some concerns as to what would happen to Chinese aluminum exports in the event that the United States enacts import duties or quotas on aluminum imports, and whether the Chinese exports would go to other markets.”

A Commerzbank analysis, meanwhile, observes, “One can only hope that the Chinese government’s months of fighting ‘illegal’ aluminum smelters will lastingly eliminate the oversupply and generate greater transparency.”

The same analysis also states, however, that despite winter anti-pollution efforts in China that mandated aluminum smelter cutbacks, “Nonetheless, the latest trade figures show that exports of aluminum products [from China] in December 2017 and January 2018 exceeded 390,000 net metric tons in each month, despite the reduction in output. This points to ample supply on the aluminum market.”

Copper began the last week in February with a price rise, as higher imports to China and strong economic data cemented expectations of solid demand from the world’s biggest metal consumer. Three-month copper on the LME closed up 0.2 percent at $7,110 per metric ton, not far from a four-year high of $7,312 achieved the prior month. The red metal struggled later in the same week, as did zinc.

Robust economic data in China reinforced expectations of strong demand for primary metals. Primary copper imports to China rose 13 percent in January 2018 compared to December 2017, while refined nickel imports doubled month-to-month and refined zinc volumes rose by 287 percent.

Chinese imports of scrap metal, meanwhile, fell to the lowest level in nearly two years in January 2018, after restrictions were introduced. Copper scrap imports were down 28 percent year-on-year. The price of copper in China surged in late 2017 on expectations that lower scrap imports to China would increase demand for refined metal.

In the steel sector in China, the municipality of Tangshan has proposed a plan to require local steel mills to lower their production rates by 10 to 15 percent even after the winter cuts are lifted. This could be a positive for global steel prices and for high-grade iron ore producers.


Commodities Pricing Trends

   Feb. 26, 2018                       Jan. 15, 2018        % change

LME Copper                                       $7,112                                   $7,206                   -1.30%

SHFE Copper                                      $8,499                                   $8,547                   -0.56%

LME Aluminum                                   $2,139                                   $2,226                   -3.91%

LME Nickel                                          $13,935                                 $12,865                 +8.32%

LME Ferrous Scrap                             $356                                       $371                       -4.04%

SGX Iron Ore                                      $77.50                                   $76.57                   +1.21%

SHFE Rebar                                         $632                                      $591                      +6.94%


[Prices per metric ton.]


ISRI releases ‘2017 Annual Report’

Tue, 02/27/2018 - 05:50
The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), Washington, has served its members for 30 years. In that time, few years have brought as much change as 2017 did, the association says. ISRI highlights the impact of these changes and the role the organization has played in helping the industry navigate the changing landscape in its 2017 Annual Report.

“Many will look back at 2017 as the year China announced its ban on certain scrap imports,” says ISRI President Robin Wiener. “While this dramatically alters the landscape of our industry, many other changes are also taking place, causing the industry to continue to evolve as it has so many times in the past. Changes in the administration in the U.S., shifting global trade policies, new technologies, an overhaul of the U.S. tax structure and more have all impacted business, markets and trade. Throughout all of this, the one constant has been ISRI working hard to assist and advocate on behalf of our members and the recycling industry,” she adds.

In addition to the industry’s response to China, other ISRI highlights from 2017 covered in the report include:

  • achieving the resumption of the U.S. Mint’s Mutilated Coin Redemption Program;

  • successfully advocating for provisions in the U.S.’s tax reform package to encourage investment in recycling equipment;

  • the creation of the MRF Council to help with issues concerning the collection, recovery and processing of curbside recyclables;

  • the development of guidance for a new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) trade agreement;

  • state advocacy efforts to promote industry interests among legislators, lieutenant governors, attorneys general and other policymakers;

    a revised safety outreach program;

  • successful education and training programs, including the ISRI Convention & Exposition, Operations Forum, Commodities Roundtable and ISRI Safety & Environmental Council meetings;

  • partnering with groups such as Keep America Beautiful, JASON Learning and Earth911 to promote the benefits of recycling; and

  • releasing a study on the economic impact of the industry;

“ISRI accomplished many positive things for the industry in 2017,” Wiener says. “However, none of it would have been possible without our members and volunteer industry leaders. As we have just concluded our 30th anniversary, we can now look back and see how much the industry has changed and the important role ISRI has played in its evolution thanks to our membership.”

She adds, “With the start of 2018, ISRI is excited for the future that lies ahead.”


Rigid plastics and film recycling see growth in 2016

Tue, 02/27/2018 - 05:31
Recycling of nonbottle rigid plastics and plastic wraps, bags and flexible film packaging (collectively known as film) grew by 10 percent in 2016, according to two reports from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Washington. More than 1.46 billion pounds of rigid plastics were collected for recycling, while 1.3 billion pounds of film were collected for recycling. 

The “2016 National Post-Consumer Non-Bottle Rigid Plastic Recycling Report” and the “2016 National Post-Consumer Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Report” were released at the annual Plastics Recycling Conference, which took place in Nashville, Tennessee, Feb. 19-21.

The reports also show dramatic long-term growth in both plastics recycling categories, the ACC says. The volume of rigid plastics collected for recycling in 2016 is nearly 4.5 times greater than the volume collected in the 2007 inaugural report. Additionally, plastic film recycling has grown for 12 consecutive years and has more than doubled since 2005, when the first report was compiled.

“We are pleased to see the increase in plastic film and rigid plastics recycling in 2016 and the dramatic growth over the last decade,” says Steve Russell, vice president of ACC’s Plastics Division. “America’s plastic makers are committed to supporting plastics recycling growth through improved infrastructure and education and believe that these efforts will continue to support the industry in future years.”

Both reports attribute the increase in material collected for recycling partly to demand from export markets. As a result of China’s 2017 policy restricting imports of scrap materials, including plastics, the plastics recycling value chain is working to develop stronger domestic end markets to continue the increase in plastics recovered for recycling, the ACC says.

“From investments in recycling facilities and advanced technologies to public commitments to use more recycled plastics in products and packaging, we see real dedication from the recyclers and end users to grow end-market opportunities for plastics recycling here in the U.S.,” Russell says.

Recycled plastic film is used in composite lumber, new film and sheet, agricultural products, crates, buckets and pallets, the ACC says, while typical end markets for nonbottle rigids include automotive parts, crates, buckets, pipe, lawn and garden products, and thick-walled injection molded products.

Plastic film includes flexible product wraps, bags and commercial stretch film made primarily from polyethylene.

The rigid plastics category includes food containers; caps; lids; tubs; clamshells; cups and bulky items, such as buckets, carts and lawn furniture; and used commercial scrap, such as crates, battery casings and drums. As in prior years, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) comprised the two largest resins in this category, representing 40 percent and 36 percent, respectively, of total rigid plastics collected.

Both the film and rigids reports were based on an annual survey of reclaimers conducted by More Recycling, based in Sonoma, California.


TOMRA eyes metal, paper upgrades with new product

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 22:32
Germany-based TOMRA Sorting has introduced its new Laser Object Detection (LOD) system that, when used in combination with its AutoSort and Finder devices, is designed to boost a plant’s sorting capabilities. The firm says the LOD, in combination with the other equipment, can allow “scrap recycling operations to reach final product purity levels unique to the market and never before possible.”

The TOMRA laser technology sorts based on the feed material’s spectral and spatial characteristics, with the new LOD detecting material that near infrared technology (NIR) is incapable of identifying, according to the firm.

“NIR technology cannot detect items such as black plastic and rubber, glass and other waste items,” says Carlos Manchado Atienza, regional director in the Americas for TOMRA Sorting. “By combining our new LOD technology, which can detect these items, with our powerful AutoSort and Finder systems, TOMRA once again leads the industry in developing and adapting technology to meet continually evolving specifications in the market.”

LOD has been designed to offer recycling facilities a low energy, cost-effective solution for meeting tough customer purity requirements, TOMRA indicates. The new TOMRA sorting system can boost final product purity by as much as 4 percent without sacrificing circuit productivity, according to the firm. Its modular design enables the LOD system to be added onto the same platform as existing TOMRA sorting equipment. Alternatively, it can be added as a standalone sorting stage.

The LOD is mechanically mounted to a platform in an arrangement that allows for both large and small feed material to pass under the laser without blockage, the firm’s technicians say.

“LOD is the perfect complement to existing TOMRA equipment within a circuit to give purity levels a boost to meet ever-tightening final product purity requirements such as the China National Sword standard,” says Ralph Uepping, technical director of recycling at TOMRA Sorting. “Increasing product purity levels expands market potential and increases the profit potential for customers.”

The company indicates its new LOD system cost-effectively sorts glass as well as plastic material and black plastic from paper, boosting product quality. Foreground detection technology has been designed to ensure the laser beam only identifies material above the belt, reducing background noise and giving operations the flexibility to use any type of belt feeder for the circuit, according to TOMRA.

LOD also has been designed to separate black rubber, glass and plastic material from nonferrous zorba and zurik products, allowing operations to turn these commodities into more valuable revenue streams while reducing the number of manual pickers, TOMRA indicates.

TOMRA Sorting is owned by Norwegian company TOMRA Systems ASA, which was founded in 1972 and has annual sales of approximately €710 million ($875 million).


Agilyx announces ribbon cutting date

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 20:13
Agilyx Corporation has announced an April 19, 2018, ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of what it calls the world’s first commercial scale polystyrene-scrap-to-styrene oil chemical recycling plant. The oil is not a fuel, but instead is intended to be reintroduced into the polystyrene (PS) production process.

The April ceremony will be held at the Tigard, Oregon, facility to “launch a week of celebrations, including plant tours by invitation from April 24-26, 2018,” according to the firm.

“The company has been converting [scrap] mixed plastics into crude oil since 2005 and the expansion of our platform to chemically recycle polystyrene (PS) [scrap] back to monomers is a significant advancement to circular economy solutions and a milestone achievement for our company,” says Joe Vaillancourt, CEO of Agilyx. “Polystyrene is a very versatile, cost-effective and valuable polymer used in our everyday lives. However, it is one of the least recycled materials in today’s recycling programs. We are proud to have commercialized the first chemical recycling solution creating a more sustainable end-of-life solution for polystyrene.”

The worldwide consumption of PS is approximately 16 million tons and is expected to grow to 17.5 million tons by 2019, according to Agilyx. In the United States just 1.3 percent of PS is currently recycled, the firm also indicates.

Agilyx is billing the Oregon plant as “the first commercial-scale closed-loop chemical recycling process for polystyrene in the world.” The plant has been designed to recycle up to 10 tons per day of PS scrap to produce styrene oil. The oil can be used by styrene manufacturers AmSty and INEOS Styrolution for processing and blending into virgin polystyrene streams used for manufacturing consumer goods, according to Agilyx.


Komatsu buys Northeastern US distributor

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 19:48
Rolling Meadows, Illinois-based Komatsu America Corp. has announced that, through its subsidiary F and M Equipment Ltd., it has entered into a purchase agreement with PBE Group, consisting of Pine Bush Equipment Co. Inc. and East PBE Inc.

Via the agreement, Komatsu America will purchase the assets of PBE group, subject to a period of due diligence and final approval of Japan-based Komatsu Ltd. Not included in the sale will be the Kubota line of equipment and parts carried by PBE. The planned closing date for the sale is April 1, 2018.

The new entity, to be named later, will assume PBE Group’s trade territory, which includes all of Connecticut, excluding Fairfield county, and certain counties in southeastern New York state. The agreement covers all Komatsu construction, mining and utility equipment sales and rentals, parts, service and customer support activities.

The Boniface family, who launched the Pine Bush Equipment Company in 1956, will continue with the new operating company, “providing continuity and support as Komatsu continues to strengthen the company’s reputation as a trusted equipment partner in the region,” Komatsu states in a press release.

“We’ve said in the past that Komatsu America is committed to excellence in the Northeast region of the U.S.,” says Rod Schrader, CEO, Komatsu America. “Investments in Midlantic Machinery, Edward Ehrbar, Komatsu Northeast and now Pine Bush, demonstrate the company’s determination to walk our talk. Our goal remains the same: provide the extra support the team in place needs to deliver unrivaled products, services and solutions that exceed customer expectations.”

Once the sale is complete, the new entity will be part of a larger group of distributors, designed to provide more equipment and parts inventory availability and greater service and support resources to customers. “Substantially, all employees, facilities, and customer support infrastructure from PBE Group will be retained,” states Komatsu America.

Komatsu America Corp. is a U.S. subsidiary of Komatsu Ltd., the Japan-based manufacturer and supplier of earthmoving machinery that includes construction, mining and compact construction equipment.


Shelmet announces hire and two promotions

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 18:41
Lake Worth, Florida-based nonferrous metal brokerage Shelmet LLC has announced a new hire and a staff promotion.

Joseph Long will join the Shelmet staff starting March 1, 2018, according to the firm’s Jeff Nadler. Long has previous experience in exporting and will be involved in domestic trading. 

Michael Derer, who has been with the company since 2012, has been promoted to full time aluminum trader at Shelmet, while Nick Villa has been promoted to traffic manager.

“Shelmet LLC is excited about new upcoming ventures and will continue to be the industry’s ‘go to brokers,’” says Nadler.

Shelmet LLC describes itself as a family business established in 1983 that buys and sells all types of scrap metal. The firm indicates it focuses on aluminum, but also trades copper, stainless steel and other alloys.


Plastics Industry Association releases results from its End-of-Life Vehicles Project

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 16:43
The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS), Washington, has released results from Phase I of its End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) Recycling Demonstration Project. The results demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of collecting and reprocessing certain plastic auto parts so they can be put back to use in automotive applications or reborn as new products, the association says. Work continues through Phases II and III of the project.

“The ELV project is one of many demonstration projects that PLASTICS is leading to develop long-term, sustainable ways to give plastics a new life through recycling,” says the association’s President and CEO William R. Carteaux. “These initial results are a promising indicator of the potential value that exists in recycled plastics from sources that haven’t been tapped yet.”

For the PLASTICS-led ELV project, 19 companies and organizations set out to create a model for how to create new sources of recycled plastics from old, scrap automobiles. The project focused specifically on plastic car bumpers, chosen for their homogeneity of material and for their relative abundance.

Recyclers and processors participating in the project were able to convert bumpers made of thermoplastic polyolefins (TPO)—a broad category of durable plastic materials—into raw plastic materials that possessed many of the same qualities as virgin TPO, PLASTICS says.

“While the recycled material could not directly replace virgin TPO in a high-demand application, we found that the material was very strong and could be used for less-intensive applications on vehicles or serve as a feedstock for products in other sectors,” says Kendra Martin, PLASTICS’ vice president of industry affairs. “These results are extremely encouraging for our ultimate goal—to create a large-scale recovery model for automotive plastics—and marks an important step in the plastics industry’s work to make sure all plastic materials—including bumpers—are put to their highest and best use.”

A full copy of the report is available at To learn more about the ELV project and PLASTICS’ other sustainability programs, visit


APR expands its Recycling Demand Champions

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 16:30
 The Washington-based Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) has announced new participants in a campaign designed to expand market demand for recycled resins and improve plastic recycling in North America. The APR also announced its plans to include additional applications and material in the program. 

The APR says its Recycling Demand Champions campaign seeks to expand the market for residential plastics, driving investment, increasing supply and producing more high-quality postconsumer resin (PCR). The initial phase of the campaign, which began in October 2017, focused on purchasing new volume PCR through “work in process” (WIP) durable goods but has expanded to include any and all new applications for PCR.

“Although the initial phase of the campaign focused on WIP durable goods, such as pallets and crates, we quickly realized the opportunity to expand the program to include any new application for PCR,” says Liz Bedard, director of the APR Rigid Plastic Recycling Program. “Through commitments to purchase WIP durable goods manufactured with broad specification PCR or develop a new application for PCR, APR Recycling Demand Champions will make a significant and measurable impact in strengthening plastic recycling markets.”

The new APR Recycling Demand Champions are Nestle, Denton Plastics and Champion Polymer Recycling. These companies join those that committed in October 2017: Berry Global, Campbells Soup Co., Coca-Cola North America, Envision Plastics, Keurig Green Mountain Inc., KW Plastics, Merlin Plastics, Plastipak/Clean Tech Inc., The Procter & Gamble Company and Target Corp.

Demand Champions sign a commitment letter to identify and use WIP items with PCR content in their facilities or detail another new application for PCR that will be developed within a year. As the program adds more participants, this will increase the demand for postconsumer recycled resins, APR says.

“The APR Recycling Demand Champions Campaign highlights manufacturing applications to utilize PCR, and was met with an overwhelming, enthusiastic response from plastic recycling stakeholders,” says Steve Alexander, APR president. “One manufacturer recently indicated intent to replace 250,000 wood pallets with pallets made with PCR, leading to more than 2 million pounds of increased demand in that one application alone.”

APR says it will continue working to expand participation in this program in partnership with brand owners, retailers, trade organizations and other members of the recycling value chain.

“We anticipate this will become a seminal program of APR going forward,” Alexander says.


Commentary: What’s best for low-grade plastics?

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 03:34
China’s crackdown on imports of contaminated recyclables is leading to an ever-increasing stockpile of plastic scrap materials worldwide. Tackling this problem stream of discards will probably lead to increased incineration of materials to produce energy as the “best” solution. An attractive option perhaps, but when the carbon produced by that process is taken into account, is it really the best environmental solution?

Creating energy from waste also produces between 25 to 30 percent residual incinerator bottom ash (IBA), which still requires waste disposal or long-term storage. Although generating heat and power from waste sounds appealing, it is inefficient when compared to burning gas in a modern generator system. Burning natural gas also produces fewer emissions and there is nil solid ash waste to dispose of.

The carbon release from waste incineration needs to be considered and compared to the alternative methods of generating an equivalent amount of electrical power.

Typical energy-from waste (EfW) plants have efficiencies of up to 30 percent for converting feed material into electricity; in contrast, a modern combined cycle gas turbine’s (CCGT) efficiency is typically about 50 percent. This disparity in efficiencies means that producing 1 megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity from a CCGT produces just 40 percent of the CO2 emissions for the same amount of energy made from plastic incinerated at an EfW plant.

It is true that a best-in-class EfW plant with integrated heat recovery (i.e. a combined heat and power, or CHP plant) can recover a further 35 percent of the available energy from the waste fuel. However, this heat could instead be generated by a natural gas boiler that has an efficiency of at least 90 percent. Even taking this additional heat-efficiency into account, a combination of CCGT and boiler still only emits about 65 percent of the CO2 of the leading EfW plants.

Using the CO2 metric alone suggests that it makes more sense to bury large amounts of plastic in a long-term “carbon sink” in the ground and efficiently combust natural gas to satisfy our immediate power needs. However, until world leaders are prepared to transform the taxation on fossil-based fuels in a way that truly reflects the high environmental cost of “free carbon release,”, then this numeric analysis remains an esoteric academic study.

Perhaps we should start by calling end-of-life waste incineration technology “sky-fill” to compare it with the alternative landfill disposal route for plastic-rich carbon mass.

Increasing incineration capacity also stifles innovation in alternative resource recovery technologies because investment is diverted away from developing new processes toward building huge plants for burning materials to inefficiently create power.

Having first raised the “landfill or incineration” question more than 12 months ago, I still believe that the best environmental option may well be to store the waste plastics in a controlled landfill facility and then to “mine” them back at a later date when new re-processing capacity becomes available. Effectively acting as a long-term carbon-sink, these plastic materials could be extracted for recycling in the future if a new-process made this both technically and economically viable at that time.

Climate change concerns us all, and efforts to control rising global temperatures have included a focus on the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels in many parts of the world. The huge shift in corporate and national energy habits required to leave fossil fuels in the ground will only happen with a carbon tax placed on the generation of electrical power that is directly linked to the tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere per unit of power created.

If that happens, it might then be the time to return to that mine of carefully stowed thousands of tons of good plastic and look again at the economics of turning it into new polymer. With a huge carbon tax slapped on burning it, then the economics would probably work. So, these plastics may not have to stay in the ground for too long.

Looking at the bigger picture, we should all be concerned about the wholesale damage to our planet caused by the completely uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels. That’s what we’re doing when we’re burning plastic that’s encapsulated amongst the mixed MSW we put in our black bin bags.

The short-term political and economic viewpoint is that “we’re getting some electrical power from it, so it must be a good thing to do.” But this, I think, reflects the market failure created by our currently very high landfill taxes [in Europe] that are not balanced by an equivalent taxation method to discourage free sky-fill.

It’s a complex and challenging issue that reaches out over the next 20 years; a critical period in our history. Until we get a carbon tax that puts some seriously big pound notes on the cost of throwing carbon into the atmosphere, I don’t see there being any real change. After all, the Earth doesn’t have a bank account – it’s only us humans who operate under that monetary metric.

The author is Keith Freegard, Director of plastics recycler Axion Polymers. Axion Polymers is part of the Axion Group, which develops and operates resource recovery and processing systems and methods to recycle discarded materials. The group works with a range of clients within the recycling and process industries on the development of new processing and collection methods.


CANACERO points to lack of need for Section 232 case

Sun, 02/25/2018 - 23:36
Mexican steel trade organization CANACERO has stated that a report issued by the US Department of Commerce (USDOC) in late February 2018 makes recommendations “that would drastically limit access to the U.S. market for steel from the other NAFTA countries, and would affect various chains of production, attempting to [unwind] NAFTA’s integration objectives.”

The Department of Commerce recommendations are tied to the U.S. making a “national security” case under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

States CANACERO, “We are a fully integrated region, [with] the majority of U.S. steel exports being made to Mexico and Canada, which is described in the USDOC document itself.”

Continues the group, “The USA consistently has a trade surplus in steel products with Mexico. In the last 10 years, U.S. steel exports to Mexico have increased 58 percent, going from $6.2 trillion in 2008 to $9.8 trillion in 2017. In 2017, the U.S. trade surplus with Mexico in steel and steel products reached $3.4 trillion dollars, which shows how important the Mexican market is for the steel industry in the U.S.”

CANACERO says the Section 232 investigation, using a pretext of national security, “seeks to stop U.S. imports mainly caused by global overcapacity [and] production of steel generated by government subsidy actions [in nations] with principles of centrally planned economies, as is the case [in] China.”

States the group, “The North American steel industry shares the problem of global overcapacity and imports under unfair practices, [and] should continue to fight together as a region without limiting their markets among the three countries. Mexico should NOT be included in the resolution of Section 232, since it does not represent any risk for the national security of the USA, since we are an industry that does not receive government subsidies [and] we are not part of global excess capacity.”

Concludes CANACERO, “We respectfully exhort the Mexican government to evaluate the measures of reciprocity that Mexico could take in the case of being included in this measure, as well as to communicate formally to its U.S. counterparts the serious implications this would have for the, especially during the negotiation of NAFTA.”


AF&PA reports mixed output figures for January 2018

Sun, 02/25/2018 - 20:25
The Washington, D.C.-based American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) has reported that containerboard production was up 0.7 percent in January 2018 compared to January 2017.

The month-over-month average daily production compared to December 2017 was 2.9 percent lower, however. The containerboard operating rate in January 2018 was 97.2 percent, or 2.2 percentage points higher than January 2017. Production for export was 10.5 percent lower than January 2017, which was the month with the second highest export volume in all of 2017.

In the paper packaging segment, shipments in January 2018 checked in at 219,200 tons, 9.5 percent lower than January 2017. Bag and sack shipments were down 13.4 percent month-over-month, but food wrapping shipments were up 0.4 percent. Specialty multiwall packaging shipments were down 19.0 percent.

The mill operating rate in the paper packaging sector in January 2018 was 84.3 percent, the second lowest over the last 13 months. Inventories at the end of January stood at 171,800 tons, up 3.6 percent since December 2017.

The complete reports for both containerboard and paper packaging grades, with detailed tables, charts, and historical data, can be purchased by contacting AF&PA at


WV Attorney General indicts contractor

Sun, 02/25/2018 - 19:42
The West Virginia Attorney General’s office, led by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has led an investigation that resulted in the indictment of Jon Comer, a contractor doing business as Jon Comer Construction LLC, who allegedly failed to complete the expansion of a recycling facility for the Greenbrier County Solid Waste Authority.

According to the AG’s office, the Greenbrier County Solid Waste Authority hired Comer’s company to upgrade its recycling drop-off and storage building for a county-wide program. The Solid Waste Authority paid $73,500 in advance for the construction, but the project was never started.

The project received public funds through a $150,000 grant from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Seeing as construction never took place, the Solid Waste Authority was in violation of the grant’s terms and must repay $150,000 to the DEP.

The DEP’s Rehabilitation Environmental Action Program (REAP) Recycling Assistance Grants Program awards funding to state solid waste authorities, county commissions, municipalities, private industries and nonprofit organizations.

Comer could face up to 10 years in prison and/or a $2,500 fine.

“Our office leaves no stone unturned when investigating fraudulent and deceptive business practices,” states West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey. “Our diligence ensures taxpayers will be protected and schemers will be brought to justice.”


Owl’s Head Alloys expanding in Kentucky

Sun, 02/25/2018 - 19:27
Owl’s Head Alloys Inc., a secondary aluminum producer based in Bowling Green, Kentucky, has announced plans to add a fourth furnace to its production facility there. The $3 million investment for a new scrap-melting furnace is needed to keep up with growing demand from its customers, according to the company.

The new furnace will increase Owl’s Head’s capacity by 30,000 tons of scrap per year. Presently, the company melts about 120,000 tons of aluminum scrap per year.

Owl’s Head processes a range of aluminum scrap, including used beverage containers (UBCs), automotive wheels, painted siding and highway signs. The company sorts and shreds the recycled aluminum products, melts the processed aluminum to customer specifications and casts it into ingots, sows or provides it in molten form. The company then ships to end consumers in the automotive, beverage can and construction industries.

“Owl’s Head Alloys has created a significant presence and reputation nationally in the secondary aluminum recycling industry simply by doing business as we should – delivering exceptional quality, serving our customers’ interests over our own and maintaining integrity,” says Kevin Mays, CFO of Owl’s Head. “This expansion allows us to continue meeting our customers’ growing needs, as well as provide additional economic development in our community.”

To assist in the project, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) has preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives of up to $150,000 through its Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.

In addition, Owl’s Head is eligible to receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives.

“Owl’s Head Alloys is a tremendous success story, and their expansion plan is wonderful news for both Bowling Green and the surrounding communities. It is exciting to see companies like Owl’s Head prosper in Kentucky,” states Kentucky Governor Matt Bevins.

“Their aluminum recycling operation is another indicator of the high demand for aluminum and the health of our primary metals sector overall,” the governor adds.


Van Dyk Recycling Solutions installs first MRF in Mexico

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 06:18
Van Dyk Recycling Solutions (VDRS), Stamford, Connecticut, says it has recently installed a sorting system in Mexico that is recovering 72 percent of the incoming municipal solid waste (MSW) it is processing. The MRF is sorting 500 tons of MSW per day, recovering organics and recyclables and creating engineered fuel, according to the supplier. 

The system was installed for integrated waste management company Grupo CIP, Mexico City, which operates sanitary landfills in 12 Mexican states, generates energy from waste and provides waste collection and transfer services.

In a video about the installation produced by VDRS, Alberto Salcedo of Grupo CIP says the company selected VDRS for the project because its solutions provided the best technology at the lowest cost with the most efficiency.

VDRS Mexico and Latin America Sales Manger Ricardo Orozco says because this equipment is the first of its kind in Mexico, the staff at Grupo CIP was unfamiliar with much of the technology, so it placed a lot of confidence in VDRS. He adds that VDRS invested considerable time answering the company’s questions and explaining critical information.

In the video, Juan Carlos Lopez, Grupo CIP plant manager, says VDRS has supported the company since the beginning. “Van Dyk has guided us through everything,” he says.

“We are convinced that the future is in facilities that repurpose solid waste,” Salcedo says in the video.

The video can be viewed below.



Scrap imports drop in China in early 2018

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 00:32
Statistics from China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC) are pointing to substantial drops in imported scrap volumes in January 2018 compared to previous months and years.

Scrap metal shipments into China fell to 490,000 metric tons in January 2018,  compared to a volume of 700,000 metric tons the previous month and 660,000 metric tons in January 2017, according to an online report from Reuters.

The January 2018 volume figure, which is down 30 percent from the previous month and 5.7 percent from one year ago, includes aluminum, copper and ferrous scrap. However, as China exported some 2.2 million metric tons of ferrous scrap in 2017, the predominant effect is likely on aluminum and copper scrap shipments.

The copper scrap January 2018 total of 200,000 metric tons was down 27.5 percent from one year ago, according to Reuters.

The drop in volumes is tied to Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) policies to prohibit and restrict many types of imported scrap materials. The actions include an outright ban on some two dozen types of scrap and impending purity levels on others that recyclers contend cannot be met.

According to Reuters, citing the GAC data, when nonmetallic scrap is included, China’s January 2018 import total for scrap materials fell by 50.3 percent compared to January 2017. Import quota licenses issued to scrap paper and plastic buyers have been severely limited.

The GAC statistics show January 2018 imports of scrap paper to China fell by 44.6 percent compared to one year earlier, while imports of plastic scrap dropped by 94.4 percent compared to the previous month.


Presona conveyor keeps OCC bales on the move

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 00:03
Sweden-based recycling equipment maker Presona states it “rose to the challenge” when containerboard producer DS Smith needed to replace the bale conveyor system at its Tampere, Finland, mill. Presona indicates it “delivered a system that uses fewer moving parts and it is easier to clean and service.”

In 2015, DS Smith Tampere staff concluded it was time to replace the mill’s bale conveyor system, preferably with something “innovative,” according to Presona. The system, which was connected to two Presona balers producing old corrugated container (OCC) bales, had been in place for more than 20 years. By 2015 the system, which featured a vertical lift, was old and subject to breaking down, prompting Tampere mill managers to begin seeking a replacement.

In 2016 Presona installed a completely new conveyor system in which all parts were built on the same height from the floor. Presona also describes the new system as being “optimized to give its operators better access for cleaning and maintenance.”

At the heart of the system is an automatic cart that runs on rails on the floor, picking up bales from the two balers.

“The new conveyor system is easier to use and takes up less space in the room, which makes everything more accessible,” says Tampere mill maintenance manager Seppo Soisenniemi. “We are very happy with it.”

At the same time it installed the new conveyor system, DS Smith decided to replace one of its two balers in Tampere, an old Presona machine from 1975, with a second Presona 40 OH2 model.

“We have had the first 40 OH 2 since 1998 and are very satisfied with it,” says Seppo Soisenniemi. “Now, if something happens with one baler we can easily switch to the other and they both use the same spare parts, which is convenient.”


Renewi to supply recycled plastics to Philips coffee machine

Thu, 02/22/2018 - 21:47
United Kingdom-based Renewi plc has announced it has started supplying recycled-content plastics it processes to Philips to make the appliance company’s SENSEO Original line of coffee machines.

The recycled-content plastic is supplied via Coolrec, Renewi’s electronic scrap recycling subsidiary, which supplies recycled plastics from old or defective Philips appliances that now comprises more than 30 percent of the plastic content of the coffee machines.

The recycled plastics are used for the black bottom plate of the SENSEO Original, and Renewi describes the polymer as heat resistant, with no odor and as not being visibly different to a component made from virgin materials.

Coolrec and Philips have worked together on other projects, including a vacuum cleaner that is made from 36 percent recycled plastic, according to Renewi.

Coolrec, headquartered in the Netherlands, has eight locations in four countries.