News Brief: Week of November 28, 2016

This week, we'll be taking a look into China RCP import price negotiations, US waste generation, and compliance with OSHA safety standards. Read on below to learn how these happenings may affect the recycling and trade industry.

Before we take a look at this week's recycling and shipping news, the board of directors of ISRI has made an important deadline change: the deadline on the deletion of old newspaper grades 6, 7, and 8 and mixed paper grades 1, 2, and 3 has been moved from December 31st, 2016 to June 30th, 2017. While this motion does not impact the implementation of other newly defined grades (54, 56, and 58), businesses now have more time to revise contracts involving the former specifications. For more information, you can visit

National recycling rate edged up to 34.6% according to EPA

The EPA's 2014 Advancing Sustainable Materials Management report cites some promising statistics for the recycling and trade industry, noting a 0.6 percent increase in the recycling rate from 2013. Of the 258.5 million tons of municipal solid waste generated in 2014, over 89 million tons were recycled. The EPA data, however, has been met with some skepticism, as calls have been made for improved and different methodologies and more standardized reporting.

Though the EPA report reveals a potential expansion of recycled materials in the marketplace, the data may not be as promising to environmentalists. Personal consumer expenditures continue to explode. Despite a trend toward lightweight packaging, per capita waste generation remains steady. In light of this, decreasing per capita generation, rather than increasing diversion rates, may become the primary focus of sustainable policies. Click here to read the full article.

Chinese mills seek RCP price cuts as buying slows; sellers withstand pressure for now

Companies in the recycling and trade industry should prepare for price changes in scrap as Chinese demand slows. Despite rising recovered paper (RCP) prices, Chinese mills have been aggressively restocking in preparation for the Lunar New Year holiday in late January and to meet 2016 import permit quotas. In particular, slowing demand can be attributed to a stalemate in US-China negotiations on RCP import prices, the close of holiday ordering, and increased dependence on domestic RCP.

The Chinese have called for price cuts, citing the depreciation of the Renminbi (RMB) against the dollar. Some buyers have even accused suppliers of price gouging, taking advantage of year end permit issues and hiking prices when mills had little choice but to accept. For now, buyers can wait out the stalemate as ports, transportation, and some mill activities are expected to halt for about three weeks for the Lunar holiday, resuming mid-February. Though big-volume buyers foresee price slumps as demand slows, suppliers view increased prices (greater than ten-fold) for Chinese brown grades as proof of robust demand from domestic mills.

Robust demand may not benefit US-European suppliers as predicted, as Chinese RCP levels surge. Increased dependence on domestic RCP is an effect of improved quality, stable prices, an attempt to lower costs by decreasing import stocks, and tighter governmental controls on RCP imports. Suppliers will just have to wait and see what the Lunar New Year will bring. Click here to read the full article.

What OSHA inspectors are looking for during recycling facility visits

Keeping up with OSHA regulations is a worthy business investment. John Schumacher, Senior Vice President at the insurance agency Assurance, urges companies to take precautionary compliance measures despite having the ability legally to turn OSHA inspectors away – inspectors can always return with a warrant. Lacking a good safety program can devastate company reputations and precipitate fatal injuries and crushing fines.

Common violations involve respiratory protection, lockout and tag out procedures, noise levels, and air quality. To avoid noncompliance, Schumacher emphasizes written documentation of safety programs and clear policies on personal protective equipment, as well as proper training, record keeping, and preparation.

Regulations can be burdensome for smaller companies, so the OSHA director of enforcement recommends simple changes to prevent the ten most commonly cited violations. For companies in the waste and recycling industry, consulting trade and professional associations and attending ongoing safety training sessions can ensure observance of OSHA safety standards. Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows a slight decrease in non-fatal injuries and illnesses, suppliers must continue to push for progress. Click here to read the full article.

Maryland recycling facility may point the way for future projects

According to the Closed Loop Fund, an investment company providing no-interest or low-interest loans to incentivize recycling, there are few efficient options in major and minor markets for Nos. 3 to 7 plastics processing, meaning significant amounts of material are landfilled or exported. The Fund has pointed to QRS Re-poly in Dundalk, Maryland as proof that plastics recovery is viable, even at lower resin pricing. In 2015, QRS, with a Closed Loop Fund loan of $2 million, opened a $15 million plastics recycling facility aimed at processing Nos. 3 to 7 resins. The Fund's report emphasizes a need for expanding PRF infrastructure across the country, pointing to regions west of the Rocky Mountains as opportunities for the new QRS model. Since opening, the QRS facility has generated 52 jobs and diverted 15,200 tons of plastics from disposal. Click here to read the full article.

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