Sorting It Out

February 12, 1999

By Michael Jessen

When it comes to the cost of recycling, you might be tempted to say: "Hey, nothing I can do about it!" Unfortunately, you've just made an erroneous assumption.

The cost of recycling is reflected to a great extent by the methods used to collect and process recyclables. But it is also influenced by the types of material collected and the condition in which they are received by the collector/processor. That's where you and I come in.

For instance, the Regional District of Central Kootenay Central Subregion recycling program collects six major categories of paper materials -- newspaper, corrugated cardboard, office paper, magazines, residential mixed paper, and telephone books.

Buyers of these recycled materials utilize the fibres in various quantities to make a great variety of products. By sorting the material according to the buyer's specifications, we not only ensure a market for the recycled paper, but allow the buyer to use it according to his needs.

In other words, it is not possible to mix all the paper materials together as residential mixed paper and find a market for it. Paper mills only need so much of each type of recycled paper because there is a limited market for the resulting finished product.

To continue with the example of the Central Subregion, all newspaper and magazines are sold to Newstech Recycling in Coquitlam where they are used to make a recycled pulp product which is converted into recycled newsprint, telephone directory paper, and other grades by Fletcher Challenge and MacMillan Bloedel.

The newspaper used by Newstech is Grade 8 which according to paper industry standards must contain no prohibited material and no more than one quarter of 1% non-newsprint paper. That's why the Central Subregion recycling program asks recyclers to keep their junk mail and other types of paper separate from their newspapers.

All other paper materials collected in the Central Subregion are marketed to Crown Packaging Ltd., which use it to make six major products. Each product requires a mixture of different types of paper and in order to maintain quality standards these papers must be mixed at the mill, not in your recycling bin.

At its Burnaby mill, Crown Packaging makes container board from old corrugated boxes. It is coated with a white clay finish and is converted into various types of single walled boxes such as gift boxes, pop boxes and cooler cases.

Ivory sheet, which is converted into the top layer of wallboard paper (gyproc), is made up of various layers of recycled paper. The bottom layer could contain a mixture of either old newspaper, mixed papers, and old corrugated boxes. The middle layer, called the filler, is made primarily with clean, sorted newspapers. The top layer is a blend of coloured and white office ledger papers, unprinted newspaper and a very small percentage of groundwood pulp.

The back sheet of wallboard paper or gyproc is called grey wallboard and is made up of a mixture of office waste papers, magazines, printers waste paper, and old corrugated boxes.

Linerboard, which goes into the manufacture of new corrugated boxes, has a bottom layer made of old corrugated boxes and a top layer consisting of brown kraft bags, rejected linerboard rolls, and new corrugated box trimmings.

Old corrugated boxes, mixed office waste and untreated wood shavings are made into roofing felt which is converted into various types of roofing products such as shingles and tar paper.

The last major product made by Crown Packaging at the Burnaby mill is called medium. It is made from a mixture of old corrugated boxes and mixed office papers. It is then used to make the "fluted" or middle part of a new corrugated box.

Sorting paper from residents and businesses in the Central Subregion is labour intensive and costs the subregion's taxpayers a substantial sum of money each year. Since the introduction of user fees for waste disposal, the amount of paper recycled through the Nelson recycling depot has increased 39%!

During the next few months, a "Recycle Right" campaign will be introduced to encourage residents and businesses to sort their paper at source. By sorting paper properly at home and/or at work, you can help reduce recycling costs.

TRASH TIP - Of 9,722 tons of recyclables marketed by the Central Subregion since 1990, 82% of this material is various types of paper. Paper makes up one of the largest portions of the waste stream. By sorting it according to the needs of your local recycling program, you can Recycle Right and save money!


All columns archived here are copyright © 1999 by Michael Jessen, all rights reserved. If you wish to print an individual column for your own use, please do so. If you wish to publish any of the columns in either print or electronic format, please contact the author at toenail@netidea.com to arrange appropriate payment.