A Word About Recycling with Ollie Maier

In last week’s column, we continued covering an article in a recent Resource Recycling eNewsletter about changes being made/ required in the recycling of cardboard – old corrugated containers or OCC. Today, in our final effort to extract some of the information from the article on this topic, we hope we have given it justice as it could affect many who recycle OCC.

You may recall, the use of cardboard is increasing. This is because, as a spokesperson for the Western Pacific Pulp and Paper company explained, “E-commerce distribution centers are using a lot more cardboard than a retail store would because they’re repackaging everything.”

As many large-scale retailers close their storefront operations, they make efforts and investments to expand and streamline operations of their distribution and fulfillment centers. In this effort some big companies “have opened more fulfillment centers throughout the U.S. – like Amazon, which now has over 70 distribution centers scattered nationwide.”

Others are introducing large-scale fulfillment centers. In example, Nike’s opened a 2.8-millionsquare-foot facility in Memphis, Tennessee.

In addition to that, “many upstart and smaller businesses that operate primarily in e-commerce are leasing space in logistic company warehouses, often outsourcing their shipping necessities to those companies too.” This means a lot of clean OCC should be going to recycling companies.

However, even though distribution centers are becoming an important source for clean fiber, “the rising tonnages of e-commerce packaging in the residential stream are also being identified as a key element in the recovery equation.” But is not without challenges in this arena.

It was found, when newspaper and office paper made up the bulk of residential fiber, single-stream collection was especially effective, because those materials are easily compactable.

But single-stream collection of OCC is not quite as easy. As many of us are aware, some curbside carts and bins are often too small to contain all the corrugated boxes many American households now have.

Also, some households do not always put the right materials in the various carts. Although most retailers find it profitable to separate out the cardboard, residents don’t necessarily share the same priorities as retailers.

Another problem in the recovery of residential OCC is contamination. Often residual glass and food cause significant isssues.

“Glass that gets broken is a big issue for MRFs because it gets mixed in with cardboard,” a spokesperson noted. “There’s only a certain amount of glass you can get out.”

On the plus side, “Proactive investments in advanced MRF screening and quality assurance technologies have also begun to ease contamination that would degrade OCC.”

Recycling companies are trying to predict what the stream of the future will look like and investing in technology for what recycling will look like in the future. However, such investments don’t come cheap.

The Resource Recycling article closed with; “If markets and values for OCC remain robust, it seems certain programs, processors and other stakeholders will work hard to ensure it gets recovered – regardless of whether the material is showing up in distribution centers, the residential stream or anywhere else.”

That’s it for today. We hope these extracts from that Resource Recycling article were interesting to you and will help in your efforts to continue recycling your OCC.

Till next week, do have a great one...--Ollie is a local citizen concerned with the environment and helping others. A retired Air Force fighter and instructor pilot, he is a graduate of Leadership San Marcos and received his degrees at Texas State University where he worked on staff before totally retiring. For questions or comments, he invites you to call him at 512-353-7432 or e-mail omaier@txstate.edu.

San Marcos Daily Record

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