• Press Release

Dirty MRFs Produce Lower Quality, Higher Contaminated Recovered Paper According to New Report

A great majority of purchasers find quality worse than other recovered paper

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) today released the final results of a study revealing paper mill buyers perceive scrap paper generated by Mixed Waste Processing Facilities (Dirty MRFs) is “generally deemed unusable by pulp and paper mills.” The report, “Mixed Waste Processing & Desirability of Recovered Paper Market Survey,” indicated that these perceptions are based on the fibers’ close encounters with organic and putrescible waste that causes the material to become susceptible to a host of undesirable quality issues.

“In communities across the country, we have seen one-bin systems continually fail,” said Robin Wiener, president of ISRI. “This report provides hard data as to why, and that is because where mixed-waste processing is used, the recycling of paper is significantly diminished, both in quality and quantity. There is little, if any, market for such paper. Communities that are still debating between one-bin and dual stream operations can now better make an informed decision.”

The survey found that 25 percent of the respondents purchased paper from Dirty MRFs, and 70 percent of those purchasers found the quality of paper “to be worse than other recovered paper.” Due to this experience, 90 percent of those purchasers have had to reject or downgrade mixed waste recovered paper at a higher rate than recovered paper from regular MRFs. None of the participants used Dirty MRFs as their majority material supplier.

There were a number of reasons that participants listed as to why they would not purchase paper from Dirty MRFs:

  1. Contamination 
  2. Odor 
  3. Low quality 
  4. Higher than acceptable percentages of prohibitives and outthrows 
  5. Internal quality standards prevent us from purchasing 
  6. Using recovered paper from Mixed Waste Processing Facilities is too risky 
  7. Excessive moisture 
  8. Quality of the raw materials will not meet the needs of my customers 
  9. Regulatory Concerns (e.g. FDA, solid waste hauling permits) 
  10. Green Fence (only answer this is you buy for Asian mills) 
  11. Lack of availability in my geographic area 

The study was a response to a debate surrounding the quality of recovered fiber being generated by Dirty MRFs. It was in the form of an online survey administered during the second and third week of January 2016. There were 41 participants in this study. The conductors of the study obtained the names of their participators through ISRI’s online database to ensure that they would be members of the industry and have prior knowledge and history with Dirty MRFs. 

Request a copy of the report here


The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI) is the Voice of the Recycling Industry™. ReMA represents more than 1,600 companies in 21 chapters nationwide that process, broker and industrially consume scrap commodities, including metals, paper, plastics, glass, rubber, electronics and textiles. With headquarters in Washington, DC, the Institute provides safety, education, advocacy, and compliance training, and promotes public awareness of the vital role recycling plays in the U.S. economy, global trade, the environment and sustainable development.

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