The last remaining 100% Post-Consumer Waste (PCW) newsprint mill in the Western United States is gone, see Snowflake Mill Closure.
Recycled newsprint mills are really suffering while companies processing raw trees are doing better. Trees are cheaper and more available than recycled paper. Every recycled newsprint mill in the US of which I’m aware is in bankruptcy. Snowflake has been on the ropes for years. It is getting increasingly difficult to even find high PCW content newsprint.
We tried buying paper from Snowflake, located in Snowflake Arizona near the Grand Canyon. There were insurmountable shipping problems so we had to send our own truck. We were kind of kidding ourselves to think pushing a truck roughly 2,500 miles round trip made us greener. Still, it is sad to see them go.
We bought most of our newsprint from the very beginning at Blue Heron, a great old mill that only produced recycled paper with the highest possible PCW content. So, of course they went broke. The LA Blue Heron mill that produced 100% PCW paper went first, then the Portland mill that had been around over 100 years.
Why? Ms. Zhang Yin. I wrote an entire post about it, Blame It On Yin. Of course it was inevitable, Asia is growing, the rest of the planet, not so much. So raw material pricing is down here, up there and on top of it all they have to put something in all those containers that land in Long Beach full of iPhones and cheap, plastic cra, um, stuff. So, the cost of recyclable paper went through the roof and the recycled paper mills could not afford to buy waste paper. The mills that are still around, including the ones we use, make recycled paper from a combination of mill waste and PCW. The Blue Heron mill in LA only used PCW and went quickly once the US started exporting PCW paper. Snowflake, who also used only PCW, held on a few more years only because it was part of the mega-giant paper maker Catalyst.
Today, we buy paper from three mills, Inland Empire Paper Company, Norpac and SP Newsprint. Inland has the lowest PCW content, but none of them use trees to make paper. They use PCW and they use mill waste, sawdust mostly. If you are going to tell me using mill waste is not recycling, please send me a photo of your house that is not made out of wood.
Western Web can make more money selling waste paper in San Francisco that is destined for a long cruise to Asia. A lot more. We did, for a period of time, as I said in Blame It On Yin. However, we now sell almost all our waste newspaper to domestic mills. We haul a load of waste paper that comes from starting up the press, trimmings from bound products and papers our customers recycle through us and haul it to one of our mills in the Portland area. We return with a load of recycled paper. It costs us some money, but we keep the faith with the true meaning of the recycled symbol.
If you are one of our print customers, you can help keep the circle unbroken. Just keep your returns or other leftover paper, we’ll haul it back, bale it and guarantee it will go to a domestic mill. That way your waste paper will end up being recycled back into newsprint that may be used to print your paper again.