Paper collection and processing: Challenges and future scenarios

In a recent panel discussion, industry experts from various regions shared their insights and experiences.

Filed under
July 12 2023
Share this story

Get the latest news and market insights delivered to your inbox.


In a recent panel discussion on Paper collection and processing: Challenges and future scenarios, industry experts from various regions shared their insights and experiences. The panel comprised Richard Davidson, Middle East Director for Ricardo's Energy and Environment Business; Vishal Dhawan, Area Sales Manager-India & Middle East, Waste Recycle Americaa; Farah Hamirani, Managing Director of Paper Chase International; Gavin McQuillan, Commercial Director, Dulsco Environment; and Nasser Mattar, Director, Nidukki. 

The discussion touched upon topics such as collection and processing challenges, the importance of consistency and quality in recycled paper and cardboard, and the role of producer responsibility in enhancing waste management practices.

Waste management continues to be a dynamic and evolving field, with challenges and opportunities at every step. The panel highlighted key insights from a recent discussion on waste management, covering aspects such as collection, recycling, business models, and government initiatives. Despite facing challenges such as fluctuating commodity prices and changing waste composition, paper collectors and recycling companies are actively seeking innovative strategies and investing in technology to overcome these obstacles. By fostering partnerships, implementing recycling targets, and educating the public, the industry aims to build a sustainable future for waste management and environmental conservation.

Gavin McQuillan highlighted the significance of consistency and quality in the waste management and environmental solutions business. His company has transitioned from being a mere transportation company to investing in treatment facilities and MRFs to process recyclable materials. To ensure quality, they focus on source segregation and reducing contamination. Education and awareness campaigns play a crucial role in promoting proper recycling practices among the diverse population in the UAE, he said.

Nasser Mattar explained the reliance on street collectors for waste collection, particularly from the municipal waste stream in Bahrain. While they don't currently have dedicated MRFs, the emphasis is on segregating waste at the source in the commercial and industrial sectors. Mattar also expressed his interest in potential future developments in recycling infrastructure.

Vishal Dhawan shed light on the recycling landscape in the United States. The company operates numerous material recovery facilities across the country, with a focus on single-stream recycling. However, he noted the changing waste profile, which has shifted more towards packaging materials, has impacted recycling programmes. Dhawan mentioned ongoing investments in facility upgrades to accommodate the evolving waste stream and manage contamination effectively.

Farah Hamirani  said that collection has gone up to the pre-pandemic level. Now, the packaging materials collection have increased. The panelists acknowledged the growing importance of extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes in waste management. In the UAE, several initiatives are underway, including collaboration with global retailers to establish circular economy practices. By ensuring that packaging materials are made from recycled content, these partnerships contribute to reducing reliance on virgin materials and promoting a more sustainable approach.

Waste management plays a crucial role in preserving the environment and conserving resources. However, it is not without its challenges. Industry experts discussed various aspects of waste management, including recycling, collection, business models, and government initiatives. This article aims to provide an overview of the key points raised in the discussion and shed light on the challenges faced by waste management companies, as well as their strategies for addressing them.

One of the main challenges mentioned in the discussion was ensuring a steady supply of recyclable materials. The experts highlighted the reliance on commercial entities for feedstock, rather than household waste. They noted that municipal contracts often restrict access to materials, making it necessary to explore other avenues for collection. The suggestion of setting recycling targets for specific materials, such as paper and cardboard, was seen as a potential solution to incentivise businesses to participate actively in recycling initiatives.

Mattar noted that the fluctuation in commodity prices emerged as a significant challenge for waste management companies. Bahrain’s market heavily relies on street collectors who are motivated by the highest bidder. When commodity prices drop, it becomes difficult to maintain a stable revenue stream, leading to a decline in collection efforts. Rising operational costs, including fuel and electricity, further compound the challenge. Waste management companies must find ways to mitigate the impact of price fluctuations and ensure the sustainability of their business models. 

The discussion also touched upon the changing composition of waste, particularly in relation to paper and cardboard. The experts noted a shift in consumer behaviour due to digitisation and technological advancements, leading to a decrease in paper usage. While this has not caused significant disruptions, waste management companies have observed changes in the types of materials they receive. In contrast, the recovery of lower-grade mixed waste has been affected by legislative changes and alterations in landfill operations.

The experts shared insights into their respective business models and strategies. Dhawan mentioned a revenue-sharing model with the community, where costs are covered through service charges. This approach ensures the company's sustainability and allows for sharing the benefits of fluctuating commodity prices with the community.  

Technology played a significant role in waste management, particularly in addressing contamination issues. Single-stream recycling facilities, such as material recovery facilities (MRFs), faced challenges related to contamination and maintaining material quality. To overcome this, companies invested in state-of-the-art equipment and advanced sorting technologies. Additionally, education campaigns aimed at residents were crucial in improving recycling behaviors and reducing contamination levels.

The panel discussion provided valuable insights into the challenges and future scenarios in waste management. Experts emphasised the need for consistency and quality in recycling, highlighting the significance of source segregation and education. They also acknowledged the changing waste stream, particularly the rise in packaging materials, and the efforts being made to upgrade recycling facilities. Furthermore, the adoption of extended producer responsibility schemes and the promotion of circular economy practices emerged as key strategies to enhance waste management practices globally. With continued collaboration and innovation, the industry can strive towards more sustainable and responsible waste management solutions.