Industry sets standards for EU paper recycling

Recycling specifications may help make distinction between waste and recyclable materials

The European paper manufacturing and recycling industries have created a detailed list of specifications for recycled paper and board which they hope will become an international standard. They also hope that the Europe-wide quality standards will be the first step in persuading regulators to treat recyclable paper as a secondary raw material rather than waste.

Launching the list in Brussels today, Francis Veys, president of the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR), said it would demonstrate to the European Commission and others that much of what was now considered "waste" was actually a valuable and high quality raw material. It would also provide clarity for dealers in recyclable paper from different countries about exactly what they were buying or selling.

Drawn up by the BIR and the Confederation of European Paper Industries (Cepi), the list sets out the various categories of recovered paper and board destined for recycling. It defines permitted proportions of certain elements such as glue, coated paper and wood which might be allowed in each type. Although a European CEN standard already exists, some EU countries such as Germany, have preferred to maintain their own definitions and the industry bodies now wants to promote a single EU system for defining recyclable paper. Cepi and the BIR hope that their list will be adopted as a revised standard later this year.

They also hope that their list will form the basis for an EU re-assessment of what can be considered "waste" paper. European industry has struggled for years to stop recyclable materials being seen as "waste" because of the extra regulatory burdens that governments can apply to waste streams, as opposed to commodities which have to be traded freely within the EU. Recently, however, the BIR conceded that it would be too difficult and time-consuming to try to change the waste definitions enshrined in EU law, but said it hoped for EU "guidelines" which would effectively exclude materials destined for recycling from the waste definition (ENDS Daily 23 February).

Through discussions in a newly formed recycling forum - set up by the Commission to look at ways of increasing recycling (ENDS Daily 27 January) - the industry bodies hope to get official acceptance that recyclable materials, as defined in this list, should be treated differently from rubbish destined for disposal.

Carlos Reinoso, Cepi's recycling director, said industry was keen to cooperate with the Commission's efforts to increase recycling. "The Commission is keen to have secondary raw materials clearly defined, we are taking the lead in this area," he said today.

Follow Up:
BIR, tel: +32 2 627 5770; Cepi, tel: +32 2 627 4911. References: European List of Standard Grades of Recovered Paper and Board (Cepi & BIR).

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