Moisture in recovered paper bales is a problem. While using a guideline is beneficial, determining the allowable moisture percentage is puzzling, said speakers at the third annual PSI Paper Summit SPECtacular. The summit for the Paper Stock Industries (PSI) Chapter of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) was during ISRI2017, the annual convention of the Washington-based trade association, April 22-27 in New Orleans.

“A protocol needs to be set up on both sides of the equation.” – Johnny Gold of The Gold Group Recycling Consultants, Swampscott, Massachusetts, referring to measuring bales’ moisture content

The event was a forum for packers, brokers and consumers of recovered paper to discuss and amend the preamble to the paper stock section of the ISRI “Scrap Specifications Circular.” Other topics covered during the SPECtacular included shipping rules; definitions of prohibitives and outthrows; new “zero tolerance” categories; rules for deductions, downgrades and claims; and eliminating separate rules for export and domestic transactions.

In the session on moisture policy, four speakers offered their views on guidelines for measuring moisture in recovered paper bales. PSI members also discussed what the endorsed percentage for moisture content in bales of recovered paper should be.

OCC (purple circles) Mixed (2)/Mixed Paper (54) (black squares); *Average U.S. dollars per short ton for open market purchases by mills for delivery in May as reported by RISI’s PPW Yellow Sheet May 5, 2017. Prices used with permission from PPW Yellow Sheet. Free trial available: www.risi.com/rt.

Johnny Gold, president of The Gold Group Recycling Consultants LLC, Swampscott, Massachusetts, and chairman of Washington-based American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) Paper Recovery Sector, said the AF&PA has a moisture guideline that “is presented as a way to improve the consistency and accuracy of measuring moisture in bales of recovered paper.”

Gold said the industry needs to improve consistency when it comes to measuring moisture in baled paper. “A protocol needs to be set up on both sides of the equation.”

The AF&PA guidelines mention using a calibrated instrument or tool to test bales. The two most common options are a surface measurement tool and a probe-type device, Gold noted.

Linda Leone, regional vice president for recycling in the Northeast U.S. and eastern Canada at WestRock Co., Norcross, Georgia, said the company has a moisture program that follows AF&PA guidelines “for the most part.” However, mills are not mandated to check for moisture, she said.  

While some WestRock mills test every load using a probing tool, others may test a portion of incoming loads, Leone said.

The paper company’s moisture limit is 12 percent. “These are limits we set at our mills,” Leone clarified, “not by AF&PA.”

PSI members reached universal consensus that a moisture level should be established, though the exact number wasn’t determined.

Kari Talvola of direct exporter FibreTrade, Burlingame, California, and chairwoman of the PSI Specifications Committee, said where measuring tools are stored matters, as do their settings. Ensuring workers are trained to use the probe or surface measurement tools also is important.

PSI members reached universal consensus that a moisture level should be established, though the exact number wasn’t determined. Many agreed it should be around 12 percent; Europe’s is 10 percent.

PSI is updating the preamble amendments discussed during the summit and will issue a summary once it’s complete.

*U.S. dollars per short ton for open market purchases by mills. Domestic prices are FOB seller’s dock for delivery in May as reported by RISI’s PPW Yellow Sheet May 5, 2017, while export prices are FAS port of origin. New York includes ports in northern New Jersey and LA includes Long Beach and LA ports. Prices used with permission from PPW Yellow Sheet. Free trial available at www.risi.com/rt.