Concerns about the availability of recovered fiber as well as the quality of the material available were among the challenges Steve Silver, president and CEO of FutureMark Paper, based in Alsip, Ill., and Jim Porter, president of corrugated packaging and recycling at RockTenn, Norcross, Ga., saw for the paper industry.
Silver and Porter participated in the session, “The Mill Viewpoint,” which was moderated by Kevin Duncombe, president of Western Pacific Pulp & Paper, Downey, Calif., and Jim Keefe, group publisher of the Recycling Today Media Group, Richfield, Ohio, at the Paper Recycng Conference & Trade Show. The event was Oct. 23-25 at the Marriott Downtown Chicago Magnificent Mile.
Porter said concerns about recovered fiber availability led RockTenn to invest in virgin fiber with its acquisition of Smurfit-Stone. The acquisition helped provide balance to RockTenn’s raw material supplies, which had been heavily weighted toward recovered fiber. In 2010 recovered fiber accounted for 82 percent of RockTenn’s raw material. Following the acquisition, virgin fiber accounts for 55 percent of RockTenn’s raw material, while recovered fiber accounts for 45 percent, according to the company.
Silver said it was unfair to say the United States suffers from low recovery rates for fiber, noting that tissue production needed to be taken out of the equation, as it cannot be recovered for recycling. In 2009, the most recent year the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), Washington, D.C., has reported recovery figures for, 63.4 percent of the paper consumed domestically was recovered for recycling.
Silver said when FutureMark was first established in November of 2009, it was 100 percent reliant on brokers for material. Since then, the mill has been developing its own collection system in an effort to lessen price volatility and have more control over quality, he added.
Silver said most companies were not willing to pay more for recycled content in their paper, meaning FutureMark needs to be able to compete with paper made from virgin sources. This can be a challenge, particularly since the company’s recovered fiber costs increased by 45 percent from Christmas 2010 through June 2011, he added. “I can’t put a surcharge on my product if my competitor doesn’t do it when it consumes virgin material.”