Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 1, Number 1
Mar 1995

EPA Recommends 54 Minimum Recycled Content Levels

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued new recommendations for recycled content of every kind of paper the federal government buys, including printing and writing papers. The recommendations were published in the Federal Register for March 15, 60 FR 14182, and public comment is invited up until May 15 of this year. (Instructions on sending written and electronic comments to EPA are printed on p. 3 of Recycled Paper News for March.) More information is available over the RCRA hotline at 800/424-9346 or 703/412-9810; for technical information about recycled content levels, contact Dana Arnold of EPA's Office of Solid Waste, Recycling Section, at 703/308-7279.

These recommendations will supersede guidelines published in 1988, and are intended to reflect the levels of total recycled (recovered) fiber and postconsumer fiber that are currently available in papers on the market in reasonable quantities.

Some of the paper products in the EPA list, and the recycled fiber content recommended for each, are listed below. The percentages are calculated on the basis of fiber weight, rather than the total weight of the paper including filler. rf=Recovered Fiber and post=Postconsumer Fiber.

Printing & Writing Papers RF Post
Reprographic, offset and tablet paper 20% 20%
Forms bond (forms, computer printout, ledger) 20% 20%
Cotton fiber paper (ledger, stationery, writing) 50% 20%
Text & cover papers (cover, book paper, writing) 50%20%
Check safety paper 10%10%
Coated printing papers 10%10%

The EPA definitions for postconsumer fiber, recovered fiber and mill broke are also in the March Recycled Paper News. "Mill broke" does not count as recovered fiber any more as far as the EPA is concerned, even though mill broke is occasionally sold from one mill to another. It is defined as "paper or paperboard scrap generated in a mill prior to completion of the papermaking process and/or specific materials generated during finishing operations that occur after the end of the papermaking process."

The president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) responded with the following statement on March 9:

"Our industry welcomes the federal government as a responsible partner in private sector recycling efforts that have already succeeded in recovering more used paper for recycling than is sent to landfills. The industry has committed more than $10 billion over this decade to build new recycling and deink-ing capacity--all in response to the growing marketplace demand to use recovered paper.

"The results of this investment have been dramatic. Over the next several years, the industry expects to increase its ability to use recovered paper in the manufacturing of printing and writing grades by 30%--four times faster than the underlying growth in recovered paper capacity. For example, U.S. makers of printing and writing paper use a higher percentage of recovered fiber in their products than is used in Europe.

"With these and similar efforts, U.S. papermakers are well on the way to reaching their goal of recovering 50% of all paper used by American consumers in the year 2000.

"We believe this achievement offers compelling proof that the market--not government mandates and standards--offers the most efficient and reliable means for making progress in paper recovery and recycling. Government efforts to set wholly arbitrary minimum content standards for various grades of paper, or to select similarly arbitrary criteria that favor some producers over others, merely distort market forces and frustrate the progress we are making.

"As we rapidly expand our ability to use recovered paper, the new challenge is increasingly to improve the quality and quantity of recovered paper available to producers. The wide variety and high quality of printing and writing papers demanded by consumers requires a correspondingly high quality of source-separated recovered paper. We look forward to working with others to improve collection and source-separation of used papers to help ensure continued progress."

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