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For years, Recycling Today’s Paper & Plastics Recycling Conferences (PPRC) have served to connect key players in the paper and plastics recycling industries. In 2020, the conferences will do just that, but with a shift that offers yet another chance to lead in the markets it serves, says Recycling Today Media Group Publisher James R. Keefe.

Recognizing the impact of restrictions and precautions that are at play across the globe concerning the novel coronavirus, the conferences will return this year but via a broadcast-style event Oct. 20-22.

“After decades producing the industry’s premier recycling conferences, the Recycling Today team knew we could not offer yet another webinar series,” Keefe says. “Instead, our team has collaborated to create a totally different event experience. We’re excited to bring the industry this new, dynamic format.”

The new format combines our North American event with our Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Europe and other international versions of the conference that Recycling Today has organized over the years. The Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference International broadcast will span three days, airing in four-hour increments. Some sessions take a familiar roundtable format, while others include one-on-one interviews with topic experts by Recycling Today editors.

For the past four years, Recycling Today has hosted the MRF Operations Forum the day before the PPRC begins, and that won’t change in 2020. This year’s MRF Operations Forum also is a broadcast-style event scheduled for Oct. 19.

These broadcasts will be supplemented with an online networking tool and mobile app that will allow delegates to build relationships and communicate with each other leading up to and during the events. The networking platform is available to all registered delegates. During the registration process, delegates can complete a short profile to share with other attendees.

Profiles can be searched from within the app, allowing delegates to connect and begin discussions that can facilitate future trading, supply agreements and equipment and technology investments.

PPRC International sessions address key issues recyclers in North America and around the globe face. Here’s a look at some of the trends and topics that will be discussed at the event. (The topics and times are subject to change.):

Topic: export standards

Session: Global Markets: Changing Regulatory Landscape

After China’s implementation of its National Sword campaign in 2018, uncertainty has surrounded recovered fiber exports to that country. Additionally, other nations have been raising their quality standards and changing their import policies, forcing U.S. material recovery facility (MRF) operators to invest in staffing and machinery designed to increase the quality of their recovered fiber bales to ensure movement to domestic and international consumers.

Early this year, India addressed contamination in imported recyclables, including paper, implementing random inspections of incoming shipments and allowing only 1 percent contamination in mixed paper.

Additionally, the Indonesian government has developed a registration process for exporters of recyclables.

Global Markets: Changing Regulatory Landscape airs Oct. 21.

Topic: Supporting circular economies

Session: Closing the Gap for a Circular Economy

“Some of the biggest impacts we’ve felt from COVID are in international shipping and travel and these exchanges that we’re used to enjoying freely in a pandemic-free environment,” says Susan Graff, vice president of global corporate sustainability and a principal at Resource Recycling Systems in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Graff says this shift has caused the industry to focus more on local economies. “To me, that’s where the circular economy benefits manifest. That’s where you see new jobs created; that’s where you see value partnerships form between MRFs and end markets to do business.”

Global business is still relevant and valuable, but she says where most of the work can and should be done right now is locally. Graff will lead a discussion on brands’ circular economy efforts during the event.

Closing the Gap for a Circular Economy airs Oct. 20.

Topic: OCC market trends

Session: Outlook for OCC

Regulations may not be entirely to blame when it comes to the tumultuous old corrugated container (OCC) market. Those in the OCC arena have felt the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of dramatic pricing and demand fluctuations. While prices hit all-time lows in 2019, by spring of this year, pandemic-related demands brought prices above $100. As this year continues, however, it seems that pricing for OCC is on the decline again.

From a global perspective, China’s shrinking volume of scrap imports over the last few years and its plans to ban imports of certain scrap commodities in 2021 have left experts expecting that country’s recovered fiber imports will sit somewhere near zero in 2021.

Outlook for OCC airs Oct. 21.

Topic: MRF technology

Session: Advancements in MRF Technology: How You Make it Work

In an effort to keep facilities running optimally, operators need to be tuned in to the latest technologies in the marketplace.

For companies like Dem-Con Cos., located in Shakopee, Minnesota, investing in new optical sorting technology has allowed its MRF to go from 2 percent contamination in its recovered fiber bales to 0.5 percent contamination at a line speed of about 25 tons per hour, as reported in the July issue of Recycling Today magazine.

Another area of growth is the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. Recology’s Recycle Central MRF in San Francisco recently added four Max-AI AQC (Autonomous Quality Control) units and one VIS (Visual Identification System). Maurice Quillen, general manager at Recology’s Recycle Central, told Recycling Today in March that the level of contamination of outbound materials at the facility has been greatly reduced because of the robots and AI, but Recycle Central has had to bring on more mechanics to keep up with the sophisticated machines.

Tune into this session to learn more about how MRFs are practically integrating new technology into their operations.

Advancements in MRF Technology: How You Make it Work airs Oct. 20.

The dynamic recycling industry deserves a dynamic event during a time where social distancing is the norm. The organizers of PPRC International think that’s what you’ll find when you join Recycling Today Media Group for this global broadcast-style event Oct. 20-22.

The author is the conference producer for Recycling Today Media Group and can be reached at lrathmell@gie.net.