The American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA)
held its 131st Annual Paper Week in New York City. Much of the
focus of the conference revolved around paper recovery and recycling
This was certainly the case for the press conference
following the release of the 2007 paper recycling rate. The following
questions were dealt with by AF&PA president and CEO Donna Harman and
Patrick J. Moore, chairman and CEO, Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation,
one of the world’s largest paper recyclers.
Where do you see room for growth in paper recovery?
Harman: The office paper category is an area where
there is great room for improvement. That is why we are so pleased
with the partnerships that we have with the EPA because that is
an area where we can sustainably increase the amount of recovery.
We already have very high levels for OCC and
old newsprint. While we think there is still more that can be recovered
there, increased rates will probably come from waste paper in households
Moore: It’s critically important that we focus
going forward on these high quality fibers in the stream today
– catalogs, magazines, first class mail and other packaging products
On a recycling course, we must recognize that
we need a deeper engagement in schools, communities and businesses
in allowing for opportunities that exist in those high quality
Although with an over 70 percent recovery rate,
we are pleased with what we accomplish every day, but there is
always room for improvement.
Would consumers be willing to pay a premium to ensure
that a dedicated fund can be established to create a paper and
general recycling infrastructure?
Moore: From the Smurfit-Stone standpoint, we look
at sustainability as a three-legged stool – the environmental side,
the socially responsible side that comes with it and the economic
Historically, we have not seen consumers really
willing, from an economic standpoint, to support products that
have greater sustainability. In the future, it is going to be critical
that we see people from a consumption standpoint making buying
decisions based on what is right for the environment and for sustainability.
What role can the government play in helping to maximize
the recycling rate?
Moore: I wouldn’t encourage a subsidization of
recycling activities today. We would generally be against subsidies
overall, but we would certainly encourage education and trying
to get people to understand the value they can create out of increased
Harman: When we look at the economic impact that
we’ve had with recycling, this is a perfect example of economics
and environment gaining popularity and starting to come in alignment
with consumer interest focused around environmental sustainability.
This industry has really been able to help put
the emphasis in place and provide market demand for the recovery
of waste paper. It has been a tremendous economic success. The
market place has been the driver of this and we really don’t want
to see the government do anything that would impede that market
How would you describe the situation in regards to
the use of recovered paper domestically and as an export item?
Moore: Certainly in our country, we enjoy a good
fiber balance, not only from the standpoint of virgin fiber, but
from recycled fiber as well. The North American industry has really
been going through a lot of capacity rationalization over the last
number of years, while the level of recycled fiber in the country
has been improving.
Today, we look at this as a global industry. A lot of new capacity
is coming on stream in many Asian countries, and China in particular.
China is a significant importer of recycled fiber today. It is
a principal raw material base for that new capacity. That differential
of what we recover and what we use here and what is typically sold
into the trade market, is principally the growth that we’ve seen
over the years in what is being sent to China.
If you look at the capacity expansion over the next couple of years,
most of our expansion will come out of the Asian continent, particularly