Pile of Scrap Ep. 12: Put It on Paper – Leonard Zeid
Ever wonder what to do with that empty paper cup after finishing your morning coffee? Pile of Scrap host John Sacco travels to St. Louis, Missouri to ask paper recycling master, Leonard Zeid, just that. As Executive Vice President of Midland Davis Corp. and President of Paper Stock Industries (PSI), a national chapter of ISRI, there’s no doubt he knows the business. Everything from determining what to put in your blue bin, the increase in corporate environmental sustainability, and the unnecessary “go paperless” phenomenon, Zeid answers it all.
Watch this episode of Pile of Scrap here.
John Sacco and Leonard Zeid
Intro: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery: Pile of Scrap with your host, John Sacco.
John Sacco: Okay. I'm here in St Louis, Missouri with Leonard Zeid.
Leonard Zeid: Pleasure to see you, John. Thanks for coming.
John Sacco: Thanks for having me. Thanks for wanting to do the podcast. We're getting some traction with the podcast, but there's a big piece of our puzzle missing and that's the topic of paper. And, since you're the president of the P–P–PSI chapter – boy, that's a tongue twister – the PSI chapter, you're the perfect guy.
Leonard Zeid: Well, the Paper Stock Industries is obviously promoting paper and recycled paper, everything about recycled paper. So, I'm happy here to talk to you and answer any questions you might have.
John Sacco: Well, I think this is great and thank you. All right. The biggest question going into the election in 2020 is, in my opinion, what do you do with the pizza box?
Leonard Zeid: If it was election night, pizza boxes…
John Sacco: Yeah, I mean the President's got to make a stand. The candidate – All right. The reason why I bring this up: you know, at Sierra, we handle paper and cardboard. You've actually bought some of our cardboard in the past and, uh, have you? Wait a minute.
Leonard Zeid: No, I bought some paper from you.
John Sacco: Yes, you did. Yes, you did.
Leonard Zeid: Not enough, and I could buy some tomorrow from you.
John Sacco: Okay. So, all right, for full transparency… I like listeners to know. You – you don't own any Sierra equipment.
Leonard Zeid: No.
John Sacco: But, we do business. We have. And, we always talk and we share information, which is great. But, the pizza box – I did an interview with someone who said, “Pizza box: Greasy, dirty? Throw it away.” Okay? Then I've talked to other people who said, “oh no, no. We take it.”
Leonard Zeid: Pizza boxes are recyclable. With that said, most of the major mills such as Pratt, WestRock and others accept it in their corrugated – in the residential stream. However, there are a few municipalities that don't accept it because they may have, uh, drop-up bins in their community – more rural communities – and they don't get picked up as quickly. So, those boxes stay in there and then rodents come and they don't want to have a resident opening up that drop-off box and having a big rat come out. But, the box itself is recyclable. Not the slick paper in it. We want you to remove all the food items out of it, but the boxes recyclable.
John Sacco: So, how come Domino's, and Pizza Hut and all these places that deliver pizza have yet to put that in any of their advertising that our pizza box is recyclable. If you please do this, Why haven't they done that?
Leonard Zeid: I think there was a reluctance, at first, to do it because of contamination problems. But I think, uh, if you look at the mills that make them and the mills that use them, we'd all tell you they're recyclable. It's interesting you should say that because there are other companies who have products that are saying ‘may be recyclable’ or even claiming to be recyclable that are not economically recyclable.
John Sacco: So, that's the – wait. So, that segues into, you know, economical recycling. What is and what isn't. The cup. Starbucks, and Pete's Coffee, Blue Bottle Coffee, coffee all over America. Only all these coffee – McDonald's – it doesn't matter. It's everywhere. There's this battle line. Yes, it is – no, it isn't a recyclable coffee cup. So, we've – we've cleared up pizza box. You put a clean pizza box where – no pizza, no food droppings. Not that plastic…
Leonard Zeid: Slick paper.
John Sacco: Slick paper. You take that out, it's a good quality OCC.
Leonard Zeid: Yes.
John Sacco: Okay. Coffee cup, now. What's the real – what's the reality? What are we being told as the public, Leonard? What's reality?
Leonard Zeid: Many of the fast food chains will like to tell you that they're recyclable, but most mills don't want to accept them as a whole load of cups because there's a poly liner in those cups. There are some mills that can handle it depending on the kind of batch systems they have. Uh, but there's also the lid – the plastic lid that comes with the cup. Um, to me, they always say their consumers want these items recycled. I say if their consumers are recycled – or economic – sorry. If their consumers are environmentally conscious, then you should have a recycled content in your cup. Because many of these places don't have any. Some might have 10%.
John Sacco: So, you're saying, – okay, instead of focusing on, ‘if that coffee cup actually can be put into the recycling stream and made into new?’ That that coffee cup should be made from more recyclable product?
Leonard Zeid: That’s right. In some cases, they don't have any in it.
John Sacco: Okay, why?
Leonard Zeid: Because the – if you ask certain companies, they'll tell you that'll raise the cost of the coffee. And I say, that if their consumers are environmentally conscious and want them to be concerned about recycling, they'll pay a penny more for their coffee.
John Sacco: Well, won't that drive the clever marketing gurus from whatever coffee house to say –and their ads and their marketing and whatever: “hey, our coffee cup is made from ‘X’ amount of percent of…?” That's an opportunity for somebody. Raise the price. People are willing, you know, the environmentally conscious. Look, big corporations today take it very seriously who they have speaking for them. You know, in case somebody gets in trouble, they – they cut that spokesperson, you know, the endorsement person as well as now, you know – there's so many issues. Big corporations today – and environmental sustainability. And so, I'm wondering – now, let's get away from coffee cups and go into other products that are manufactured. Do you see a push in the U.S. products that are being put on the shelves to have more recycled content in the product that is actually being sold, or are we still light years away from that?
Leonard Zeid: 100%. I think we're seeing it in a lot of categories. Food packaging is certainly concentrating on how to limit the amount of plastic and how to increase recycled content. Uh, graphic packaging I know is doing a lot in their food packaging efforts as well as some other mills. I know that, um, the, the mills themselves are working on ways with their customers to add recycled content where they can. Uh, there are companies like Pratt and, uh, WestRock and Green Bay Packaging that make products that are a 100% recyclable.
John Sacco: And what are they making? So, I'm – I'm – I'm John Q Public and you just named three mills: Pratt, WestRock, Green Bay Packaging. I thought you were going to say Green Bay Packers, but okay. I'm a Packer fan, sorry. You’re St. Louis. You lost your football team. So, you guys are in hell out here.
Leonard Zeid: What happened to Oakland? Sorry.
John Sacco: I am – I'm not a Raider fan. I can care less about them. Um, but what do they make? What – what products are they making that John Q Public goes in and goes, “Oh wow, I didn't know this is where it came from.” What are they making? You got any instances? Because people want to know.
Leonard Zeid: I mean, whenever they get a package from Amazon…
John Sacco: Okay, good.
Leonard Zeid: They're usually getting it in a box.
John Sacco: Yes.
Leonard Zeid: And that box is usually made out of recycled material from one of the companies that you just named as well as a host of others that are all in that. All in the, uh, e-commerce segment of container board.
John Sacco: Is Amazon doing their bit for environmental sustainability?
Leonard Zeid: They are, actually. They’re continuing finding better ways to save money and be more environmentally conscious. This year, even though they sold more items than they did last year, they actually purchased less boxes because they're looking at alternative packaging.
John Sacco: But, is that alternative packaging recyclable? Is that alternative packaging made from recycled products? And does it leave a bigger foot–
Leonard Zeid: That is the–that is the big question, if they go to, for example, a paper envelope that has bubble wrap inside of it, that is not as recyclable.
John Sacco: No, it's contaminated. It's cross-contaminated products.
Leonard Zeid: Exactly. But, they are trying to find ways to use less material even when they use a box to right-size their box and do other things.
John Sacco: So, the biggest company that recycles used to be – and I'm taking Waste Management out of this because they have the MRFs that run all the different, you know, the collection. But, isn't Walmart the largest recycler with all the paper that the – who’s the largest –
Leonard Zeid: Walmart probably generates more corrugated than any other company in the United States.
John Sacco: So, they're doing their share of –
Leonard Zeid: And, they are also trying to get to zero waste sustainability. And, they have programs where they bundle other recyclable products and what they call sandwich bales and then they go to processes where they're separated out, sorted and sold.
John Sacco: Aspirational R–
Leonard Zeid: Aspirational Recycling.
John Sacco: Yeah. So, what is the real number then, Leonard? Let's be real because you know what? Everybody would love to hear zero waste. I – I – I'm – that's a tough pill for me to swallow. I can't believe we can actually get to zero waste because there's just still, at this moment, too many products that are so contaminated – so cross-contaminated with different products: paper, plastic and steel on something. And, I mean there's a variety of things that, really, you're never going to be able – it's going to go to a landfill. So, what does zero waste really look like?
Leonard Zeid: It's a question of whether something can be economically recycled in many cases. That's really what it comes down to.
John Sacco: Well, let's talk about –
Leonard Zeid: And if the generator of that material is willing to pay the processing costs, they have that material separated and sorted, then you can reach a higher level of recyclability.
John Sacco: Right, well let's talk about that. Because economical recycling, the value of commodities, across the board, in all the recycling industry from scrap iron, copper, aluminum – aluminum is not doing well.
Leonard Zeid: Do you know for the first time, that I can recall a – a dairy, uh, plastic dairy bottle, which we'd call a ‘#2 Clear,’ is actually worth more than aluminum on a per-pound basis.
John Sacco: That's fascinating.
Leonard Zeid: That's really unusual. That tells you the state of things.
John Sacco: Yeah, it's definitely different. So, here's where I'm going with this: paper products. Look, we handle paper and I haven't seen – I've not experienced cardboard at the pricing levels – we're not supposed to talk pricing, I suppose, but it’s the lowest I've ever seen it. Okay? Now, is this a result of, as a nation, or – let's take North America or just stick to the U.S., we've – we've built so many MRFs, so much blue bin recycling, so much push into the consciousness of the individual consumer for recycling and it's happening. But the problem is, is we're putting far more supply of recycled paper than there is demand for this paper. Is that a net effect of what we're seeing?
Leonard Zeid: Well, what we're seeing is, uh, a system that was designed in collection and not, uh, on the demand side. You know, the recycling has several arrows to it and we worked on the collection and we haven't worked on the demand.
John Sacco: Why?
Leonard Zeid: When people in their homes want to recycle, the first thing they think of is they go to their bin, they don't go to the store. And say, “which of these products that I'm going to buy, which tissue, which tiling? You know, what products are made out of recycled content?” If people did more of that and increase the demand for recycling, the rest of the system would take care of itself.
John Sacco: Is there – okay. Let's say…
Leonard Zeid: If you're talking about, you know, 47 million tons of collected paper, uh, last year, uh, you know, we can only use so much of that in the United States.
John Sacco: How much can we use?
Leonard Zeid: So, we use, approximately, in 2018, uh, we only use about nine – let's see, we only exported 19 million out of the 47 million tons.
John Sacco: All right, and where did the other, uh…
Leonard Zeid: Domestic. Those were – 19 million went to export. The rest was domestically used. And uh, this year – by the way, out of that, uh, 47 million tons, the predominant amount of that – two thirds of that paper was OCC that was collected.
John Sacco: Cardboard for those who don't know what OCC is – OCC is old corrugated containers.
Leonard Zeid: So, 32 million tons of OCC was collected and of that 32 million tons, only 20 million tons was used in the United States. The balance of it was shipped to Indonesia, Vietnam, China.
John Sacco: How much of that was consumed by a mill? Do you know?
Leonard Zeid: Well, we're saying domestic mills, they consume 20 million.
John Sacco: How much was collected of that? Okay, in other words, what I'm trying to say is: there's a glut out there
Leonard Zeid: Yes.
John Sacco: Because the prices – so, how much is sitting in warehouses? What percentage now, if you, let's just use – for easy figuring, for every thousand tons of cardboard being collected, how much is it actually going to be consumed in the same year instead of having to be warehouse or stored?
Leonard Zeid: I understand where you're going with this and the bottom line is that there is not enough demand to meet the supply of corrugated and mixed paper that's collected out there.
John Sacco: Right.
Leonard Zeid: And so, there is some of it and some communities are going to a landfill with it.
John Sacco: Okay. So, we have the –
Leonard Zeid: And some people are sitting on it.
John Sacco: So, the – the adverse effect of being great in collecting and trying to keep it from the landfill, there's an adverse effect to where, now, the commodity values are so low, the cost of – of going through the MRF and recycling it exceeds the value. And now…
Leonard Zeid: Sure.
John Sacco: Now, okay, one of the people I podcasted with, Jason, uh, Jason Young from the Allen Company, told me that in Los Angeles – now this is Los Angeles, a more expensive place to do business. California's more expensive. But yet, he said the blue bin recycling costs $130 a ton for separation. So, let's just say in the Midwest, it's less. A lot of these commodities, these paper products aren't even close to $100 a ton as far as value goes. So, how do we bridge that gap? What's going to have to happen? Because if communities don't want to pay for it, that stuff's going to go straight to the landfill.
Leonard Zeid: Well, it wasn't always this way. As you know, prices took a big drop when China decided to drop out of the market of purchasing a recyclable materials directly. And so, um, they will end up needing the fiber, but they're going to take it in a different form. Instead of us shipping our corrugated to China, we're going to ship it to Indonesia, India, places in the United States that will process it and clean it up and then send it over there. So, I think it's just a matter of time for those trade – new trade routes to be designed. I think we have a tariff problem with China right now, which is also slowing things down, slowing down their economy. So, their need for fibers isn’t that great right now, but they will need fiber and that will clear up a lot of this. But the bottom line is, it costs –right now, it costs to recycle.
John Sacco: Well, there's a cost.
Leonard Zeid: Communities have to realize that if they want to continue recycling, they're going to have to have a budget and a cost versus sending to the landfill.
John Sacco: I think that's important because people love to say to me, when they ask me what I do, I'm in the recycling business and they say, “Oh, that's why I do my b–I recycle. You know, and I kind of went, “okay, well,” “Oh, it must be a great business.” I go, “well,” what they don't know is that the true cost and the millions of dollars that go into these plants that – for these MRFs and all collection. Everything that has to do with separating stuff out of the stream, going to the landfill. You know, it's a commodity. Paper's a commodity. It's not waste. It's an actual commodity. So, I want to get that – I want to clarify that. You know, scrap is not waste. And paper, we – some people call it waste paper… scrap. They don't like that word, but recycled paper is not waste because it actually has a value.
Leonard Zeid: It’s true.
John Sacco: Now, granted, it may have a value below the cost of production. It still has a value, so we can't call it waste.
Leonard Zeid: Correct.
John Sacco: When are our new mills going to be – when's the investment in the United States – in North America happening? When are we going to be building?
Leonard Zeid: We have new mills that are being built right now. Where I practiced opened up a brand new mill in Ohio, Green Bay packaging is building a brand new facility that'll be open in 2021.
John Sacco: Where's that going to be?
Leonard Zeid: That's going to be in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
John Sacco: Excellent.
Leonard Zeid: You've got McKinley Paper is opening up a new mill probably in the next quarter or two quarters up in, uh, Washington state. Uh, in Port Angeles, uh, Bio Pappel’s expanding mills in Mexico. WestRock just built a new mill of Monterrey. Uh, there, there's a – there are mills that are just coming online that are Chinese bought that were closed like Wickcliffe, Kentucky and up in Byron, Wisconsin and up in Maine. And so ther – there are new mills coming online in the United States.
John Sacco: All right. So, for me and for those gonna listen to this podcast, Leonard… These new mills, what percentage of their product to make new paper products is going to be from recycled paper?
Leonard Zeid: Ones I just named are 100% recycle.
John Sacco: Well that's fantastic. So now, that's – how many tons will that be? What you named – how many tons is that going to be? Because you know, we know a steel mill belts between 60 to, uh, 100,000 tons a month. Okay.
Leonard Zeid: Those mills, on average, uh, between 30 and 40,000 tons a month.
John Sacco: That's significant.
Leonard Zeid: Yeah. And those are tons that, uh, are not being purchased right now. So they're going to be, they're going to be tak–they will either be taking market share or pulling tons that are not being purchased right now. So that's going to help the market. Uh, Pratt certainly has helped the market in the Midwest by opening up their mill in Valparaiso several years ago and now in Ohio, uh, which has been fantastic. And then of course, Byron, there's a mill in Appleton, Wisconsin that opened up recently. A mill up in the upper peninsula that opened up recently. And by the way, several of these mills were mills that were shut down at one time.
John Sacco: Okay. So, I think good news sounds like good news is on the horizon. So, maybe with all these new production mills coming on, this is going to be a good thing. So, okay, let's talk about paper from recycled paper. What is the number one product made today in the United States that consumers are buying that is really made from recycled paper?
Leonard Zeid: Well, container board.
John Sacco: Container –
Leonard Zeid: Boxes is by far the biggest item. Um…
John Sacco: What’s next?
Leonard Zeid: The paper packaging that they buy things in.
John Sacco: Okay.
Leonard Zeid: For example, uh, toothpaste comes in a – in a folding carton box, right? You know, candy, all those things, they all add up. They're all significant. Some are made out of – a lot of them are made out of recycled product.
John Sacco: Okay. What about at like fast foods that have the napkins now that – what is that mission?
Leonard Zeid: You know, when you go to a fast food restaurant or you go to a sports stadium and you get a napkin, sometimes they're white, sometimes they're brown. Um, the brown are made brown because those companies that are purchasing want people that know that they're made out of recycle and they figure if they look brown, people consider that and know that they're made out of recycled content. Yet, there are a lot of napkins that are made out of white and tissue that are made white that use other products like sorted office paper and things like that to make them white. Uh, so, um, there, there is a lot, but unfortunately what happened in the tissue business was people were worried about there being enough office paper to make a tissue and tiling and the mills were worried that they would run out of supply because everybody was using less and less paper. Okay. So some of the new tissue mills that came online recently used Virgin pulp and so, or they use, they have an ability to swap back and forth as they did that just as they did that China said, we're not going to buy anymore SOP which they used for duplex board over there, which all came back in the United States.
John Sacco: How many tons was that?
Leonard Zeid: Yeah, I wish I could give you an example, but thousands of –
John Sacco: Okay, so now all that paper… Okay, but if you're making tissue, don't you want a cheap virgin material like steel mills? They love when scrap prices are down.
Leonard Zeid: The mills love – the mills that buys sort of office paper in this country love the fact that it's dropped significantly – a third to half the value, um, over the last number of months. Um, but as I said, several of the mills had turned to go to another direction and one of the large mills that bought sorted office paper, uh, was recently bought by the Chinese and who were taking and buying mixed paper instead so they could make a product that they could clean product they can send to China. So, those several thousand tons a month are back in the – in the marketplace again.
John Sacco: Okay. Where's the future going of recycled paper? Where – where – when you see all the things, all new products and packaging and what have you – you know, United States, we're a big consumer country and – and – and Jason Schenker, who was on my podcast, um, that was just released, said that he doesn't believe the United States is going to go into a recession because United States spends a lot of money. The consumers buy a lot of products. So, where's paper going? What's – what's the fee–what new thing that you've seen or heard, that's going to be really unique to for paper recycling – it's going to enhance it?
Leonard Zeid: Well, in the short term, you know, everybody looked at the eCommerce as being the big thing for container board business and it’s grown for the last 10 years and about two and a half percent a year. Well, this last year it's flat because people are looking, they're looking at alternative packaging and so forth. So, um, the container where business is relatively flat right now, but it's going to come back. And I – and I believe – I believe in America, I believe in the youth of America. And I think our kids are more conscious about environmentally recycling and I think they're going to demand more products made out of recycled content and I think that is – will pull the demand side will help the supply.
John Sacco: You know, I just thought of something. iPhone: Apple. The box that the Apple iPhone comes in, it's a very thick cardboard box. Is that made from recycled fiber?
Leonard Zeid: I don't know, but I know Apple's very environmentally conscious.
John Sacco: Well, I know they are. I’m just curious.
Leonard Zeid: I don’t know the answer to that question. So, should not American consumers should be asking that of the companies they're buying their products from, that they demand that the products that they buy come in a recycled...
Leonard Zeid: Yes, yes. It has to be driven by the consumer because they're the ones that corporations are listening to and if they don't care, the corporation isn't going to care.
John Sacco: What about government? What's government's role in there now? Look, I, I'm a – I don't want government in our business. They already drive it.
Leonard Zeid: I think that's the – that is really the answer. It needs to come from the consumer. We don't want the government in our business. Every time they step in, even when they think they're doing something positive is – maybe you and I would think so on the recycling side, there's always these unintended consequences down the road. Just like the energy – energy tax credit, uh, had alternative consequences that they hadn't planned on. And uh, when – when, uh, the Clinton/Gore administration was in and they decided to raise the amount of recycled content in government paper, there was such a demand that prices for recycled content went through the roof for recycle paper went through the roof. And so, the cost of the paper went through the roof and the government couldn't afford anything but their largest purchase of paper in the country. So, they had to cut back on the recycling content again.
John Sacco: It’s interesting, in our discussion, there's so many unintended consequences from recycling. From wanting to do it, creating the low values from doing it as the government did in the Clinton/Gore and now the cost of that paper… so much more than the regular paper out of the virgin papers. That – that's fairly interesting. I got here, I saw this, and I wanted to bring this to your attention. May/June Scrap magazine from the trade association – ISRI: Institute of Scrap Recycling Industry 2014 and it's a cover that says, “the quality question: can cleaner bales reverse the decline in export paper demand?” I don't think we headed this warning because export paper demand is…
Leonard Zeid: We’ve been telling paper stock industries and a chapter in ISRI who had been telling people that we have to maintain our quality, uh, because what we're seeing right now is other countries that are starting to buy our product are saying, well, China is only going to take a half a percent of contaminants. We only want a half a percent. We don't want somebody else's junk in our country. And so we have to have better quality or we will close off markets to ourselves. There's absolutely no doubt about that. And I think by and large, the, uh, processing plants in this country have a lot of good players and they're all human, that the quality today, whether it goes export or domestically has gotten better. And I have to say that's a tough thing to do when the price of the material keeps going down to tell somebody they need to add it another sorter or spending another few million dollars on optical sorters when the value of the material is gone down.
John Sacco: Well that – that's true. You know, some of the balers that we've sold into MRFs, um, there has been a major upgrade in sorting systems in the optical sorting, uh, you know, for plastics as well as paper. I mean, you know, we're focusing on paper on this podcast, but they've spent a lot of money to try to enhance the productivity of their sort and keeping it cleaner. But, maybe be a little too little too late.
Leonard Zeid: No, I don't think so because I think we need fiber out there. I just think we have to keep pressing on it. I think the environmental condition, the uh, economic conditions have led to some of this also, but I do think we're going to work – work our way out of it. Like I said, we have a lot of very positive, great processors out there. Big companies and small companies that are doing a lot to clean things up. We're starting to see robotics in our plants now as well as the optical sorter. So, we're keep trying to find more technology to do it better and make it cleaner.
John Sacco: But…
Leonard Zeid: I have to say one thing.
John Sacco: Go ahead. No, no. Please.
Leonard Zeid: And that is that again, it goes back to the, uh, to the residences and consumer products. You know, we all want to recycle, but sometimes we have this aspirational recycling, which you mentioned before. We want something to be recycled and so we throw it in the bin. You know, we have these electric lights from Christmas that don't work anymore. Well, they have copper in them, they're plastic. We'll throw them in the bin. And so, we have to get rid of aspirational recycling in our – for our recycling program to work. You know, when in doubt, throw it out. Don't throw it in the recycling bin. Let's let, let's – let the con–the quality problem starts at the residents. It's what they're putting in the bins that shouldn't be there.
John Sacco: Okay. So…
Leonard Zeid: Bowling balls. You know, I was talking to some folks at Waste Management. They get thousands of tons of bowling balls every year in the recycling stream.
John Sacco: What do they do with them?
Leonard Zeid: They have – they have to have to go to landfill. I, you know, if they recycle those, I don't know.
John Sacco: Can't they make cannonballs out of them? I'm just kidding. Okay. You know, it's fascinating because paper, you know, I'm sitting here in your office and as I look around your office, you know, I see all the ribbons and… or the badges from all the ISRI shows and all the great paper products and, you know what, as much as you see: paperless. You know, ‘go paperless.’ Citibank, go pay–or Wells Fargo goes, ‘go paperless with your – with your report.’ Um, you know, all of the electronic age is, is great, but it gets hacked and people like to get that hard copy.
Leonard Zeid: Yeah. You know, using paper is not a bad thing. Paper comes from trees that are renewable resource. We grow trees. We're not going to the rainforests of the Amazon to get trees to make paper out of, you know, we in the United States grow our trees in an environmentally responsible way and for every tree that gets pulled out and cut down to make paper out of, they're planting more trees in its place. It's a plantation. And so, you are raising trees to harvest and replacing them. No more than you'd say don't eat corn because you cut down the husk. It's a renewable resource. It gets planted again.
John Sacco: Okay. I think we should review this a little bit. Trees are being planted. They're being farmed for paper. Okay. Very simple. Corn: feed for animals and for food products, trees, paper product. What's most cost effective? Is it cheaper to plant a tree, grow it, put it through a mill and make new paper? Or is it cheaper to take recyclable paper because it's – there's two industries here, you know, there's people who get their job from planting trees and then harvesting those trees and running them through the mills. You know, there are people who have jobs we've got and it's not a bad job. This is not a dirty job that some people would like to say because it's planted for the purpose of making paper. So, where's the balance there, Leonard?
Leonard Zeid: I think it really depends on the product that you're making to some extent. The amount of recycled content you can put it in that product. For example, there are boxes that are made out of 100% recycled fiber. There's some are made out of mixed paper. That tends to be more lightweight packaging where, uh, the, uh, products that are made out of pulp usually tend to be a heavier weight. That's not a, a rule and I don't know the exact mixture. I just know there are companies out there that have 100% recycle mills and they also have mills that are blend that have maybe 70 or 80% wood and 20% recycled content.
John Sacco: So, we're not really destroying the planet are we, when we take trees from a tree fire?
Leonard Zeid: No, we're not. But, when we make a product – a paper product out of those trees, you know, the good thing is that we're recycling it and we're using it. You know, sometimes that paper gets recycled up to seven times.
John Sacco: So, it's the life cycle of seven times. So, you could take a virgin tree plant and make cardboard – a big box for your appliance – TV box. You know, you buy big 80-inch TV for your Superbowl. Christmas is coming and there's going to be a lot of cardboard and paper at Christmas. Right?
Leonard Zeid: Yeah, that's true.
John Sacco: Okay. And Hanukkah, let's not forget our – our friends, right?
Leonard Zeid: You saved me from making that comment. Thanks, John.
John Sacco: Well, my dad's partner was Boris Rosenberg, so I grew up knowing when Hanukkah and Christmas is always, you know, the same thing. But anyway, um, seven times life cycle. So, it seems to me that the world of paper actually is very sustainable from the standpoint of growing trees. Very sustainable from the paper being reused because it has a seven – you can reuse it seven times. I think people need to know that. I think people need to know A) we're not destroying the planet and sometimes you need a little heavier – you can't use all the cardboard to make all the new paper, can you?
Leonard Zeid: I don’t think so.
John Sacco: Okay. So, I think we have to be reasonable. People have to have reasonable expectations that A) we're not destroying the planet when we harvest trees that are grown for that purpose because not everything can be made from recycled paper. We need more products from recycled paper. There's no question. We need more of that to help that flow because we have a glut right now. That, we do need.
Leonard Zeid: That’s the big difference. When you see communities that say we don't want people to use shopping bags and we're going to tax them and they tax plastic bags and they tax paper bags. The two are totally different. One gets back into the recycling stream used over and over again and one ends up going to a landfill. So, you know, uh, it's totally different. Paper, plastic? Always use paper.
John Sacco: Wouldn't people say – the plastic makers –that that plastic is recyclable?
Leonard Zeid: I'm not sure that that great of plastic, there are some homes for it, but the majority of it is difficult to recycle. Again, you're talking about economically recycling and those plastic bags get into a MRF and they get around the gears, they get in the conveyors and they create a lot of problems and so, they're not something that MRFs like to handle.
John Sacco: Alright, well, you know, we've had a great discussion here and let's – I wanna wrap it up, but I want to go back to something. I want you to tell me what's the most clever use of paper in the recycling – into a new product that you have seen?
Leonard Zeid: They’re actually trying to find ways to put beer cans using a paper product, uh, unlike a regular six pack tote. Okay. We're using them for that. I'd say the other thing that's really, uh, come online now is when people get, uh, they order from a, uh, a company that sends them everything they need to do to cook a meal. And it comes in a box. You used to have styrofoam in it. Okay. There are some companies now they're starting to use a paper molded fiber product that provides the insulation they need that holds the temperature. That's probably a pretty major change.
John Sacco: So, a fiber product that actually retains the temperature because that's important. Styrofoam is an insulator. So, now we're making it an actual product from paper that's insulates as well as styrofoam.
Leonard Zeid: Did you know one of the biggest insulators out there is paper? If you look in a lot of people's– what they're blowing up there is paper. Newspaper has been treated with a boratic acid so that it doesn't burn. So, it keeps termites away. But, uh, a lot of insulation is made out of cellulose, which is newspaper. So, it's a good insulator. It's a good product. Eight cartons. And when you go to the grocery store, you know you have a choice of picking your eggs?
John Sacco: Yup.
Leonard Zeid: In a molded fiber carton that’s probably been made out of newspaper or you’re getting a plastic or getting a styrofoam container. If you really want to do the environmentally conscious thing, you'll buy the ones that come in the, uh, in the cellulose, the molded fiber.
John Sacco: Fantastic. You know, we buy all our eggs with that because the organic eggs come in that box. You don't find it in the styrofoam box. It's funny because I know in my house because, I like to cook and so I know when I'm pull out an egg carton, it's always that fiber container. Fascinating. All right. Leonard, listen, last word to you. As people who listen to this podcast, we've talked about all the different things about paper, what's, what's something you want people to understand that maybe we didn't cover today about paper that they really need to know?
Leonard Zeid: I think it's actually one of the things we did cover and that is that if you're interested in recycling, if you want to be an environmentally conscious household, to use those terms again, I think you need to get away from wishful or aspirational recycling and you need to put the things in the bin that can be recycled. Keep it simple. When in doubt, throw it out.
John Sacco: Fantastic. Leonard, thank you for this. I think a lot of people don't enjoy this because it, really, it was educational for me. As much as I'm in the recycling industry, I don't know paper as well as you do. I thank you for your time. Appreciate it, my friend.
Leonard Zeid: Thank you very much, John. I appreciate you coming out.
John Sacco: Alright, well that's it. That's another episode of Pile of Scrap.
Leonard Zeid: It’s a pleasure to be with you.
John Sacco: Thank you, Leonard. Thank you.
Conclusion: This has been a Sierra International Machinery original audio series. Thanks for listening. Please share this podcast and make sure to subscribe.