ISRI Senior Economist Bret Biggers presented two sessions on the topics of ISRI’s Specifications and Materials Characterization and Legislation and Regulation Driving Sustainability at Western Michigan University’s (WMU) Annual Fiber Course. The nationally-recognized WMU Fiber Course brings together major consumer brands, packaging companies, paper mills, and other industry firms such as Mars, Inc., Amazon, WestRock, The Hershey Company, U.S. Postal Service, SC Johnson, Georgia Pacific, Graphic Packaging, 3M, Cascades, Amcor, Huhtamaki, Bayer and many more.
Bret’s first presentation focused on the recycled materials industry data, U.S. economics, recyclable materials characterization, exports, ISRI Specifications and Standards, recent paper spec changes, and paper and board recycling rates. Of interest is the impact of lower demand on recycled paper exports — down 20% for the first half of 2023 compared to the same period a year ago. Some industry experts agree that we are in a box recession.
During the legislative and regulation session, Bret focused on how federal and state legislation affects sustainability, pointing to extended producer responsibility (EPR), environmental social governance (ESG), SEC Scope 3 on carbon emissions, international pressures from other countries and conventions were also mentioned. The presentation included an overview of polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)/perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) in paper packaging and the importance of liability protections for the recycled materials industry as a passive receiver of these chemicals. Additionally, focus was placed on federal legislation that ISRI supports — the Recycling and Composting Accountability Act (S3743) RCAA, and the Recycling Infrastructure and Accessibility Act (S3752) RIAA — as they define recycling, material recycling facility and recyclability.