- An Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) survey of North American paper buyers asking their views on recovered papers from mixed-waste recycling programs found that most buyers considered the products inferior. In fact, 70% of survey respondents said the quality was worse than most other recovered paper, and 90% had to downgrade or reject the products more often than when purchasing from MRFs that do not accept one-bin waste.
- The top eight reasons for rejection were contamination, odor, inferior quality, unacceptable prohibitives and outthrows, poor internal quality standards, high risk, high moisture, and quality that would be unacceptable to their customers.
- Other survey highlights include:
- 49% of respondents purchase more than 100,000 tons per year of materials, but less than 500,000 tons of recovered fiber per year.
- 25% purchase less than 10% of their tonnage from mixed-waste processing centers.
- 62% felt that ISRI should put out a statement that reads, "paper recovered from one-bin programs, separated in mixed-waste processing centers, is not fit for use in USA paper mills."
"Dirty MRFs" are still under experimentation to determine their viability as a means to diversion. But there has long been debate over the quality of some materials processed in them. Some claim they are an alternative due to a lack of new material recovery facilities for curbside [recycling], especially in smaller cities who may not be able to afford them.
Some products like plastics may not be as affected, though that too is up for debate. But the ISRI survey makes clear that paper is a problem — one that likely doesn't surprise the organization, who issued a policy statement in 2014 denouncing one-bin collection systems based on member companies' complaints about the poor quality of recyclables recovered through them.
"...We finally gleaned hard data from paper mills about the poor quality and contamination that they are actually experiencing and the resulting impact on their purchasing and sourcing decisions,” said Robin Wiener, ISRI president, in a statement. "It is clear from this study that in communities where mixed-waste processing systems are put in place, the recycling of paper is significantly diminished, both in quality and quantity."