Recovered paper markets in the US: high inventories, stable pricing

Photo: H0005

Recovered paper prices have been flat overall so far in 2016 as U.S. mills continue to supply the domestic market with inventory, according to speakers at the Southeast Recycling Conference and Trade Show (SERC), held March 13-16, 2016, in Destin, Florida.

Michael Hoffman—managing director in the diversified industrials sector, covering environmental services, for Stifel Financial Corp., a St. Louis-based brokerage and investment firm—provided an overview of “The State of the Waste Industry,” where he discussed how paper prices remained flat three months into 2016, “but still less than in 2015,” he said.

OCC (purple circles); Mixed Paper (black squares); *Average U.S. dollars per short ton for open market purchases by mills for delivery in March as reported by RISI’s PPW Yellow Sheet March 4, 2016. Prices used with permission from PPW Yellow Sheet.  

The March 4 PPW Yellow Sheet  validated Hoffman’s statement, reporting that domestic pricing for recovered fiber remained mostly flat across the board month over month.

Pricing for mixed paper and old corrugated containers (OCC) was flat in all domestic regions, except in the Pacific Northwest, which increased $5 per ton from the prior month. Old newspapers (ONP) pricing also remained stable in all U.S. regions month over month, with the exception of the Southeast and Los Angeles/San Francisco regions, which saw a $5 per ton increase.

Hoffman said “little brown boxes” in the waste stream continue to increase, and he questioned how the industry could better collect OCC for recycling. “How do we economically catch the value of these goods?” Hoffman asked the audience.

Corrugated box shipments in the U.S. showed modest growth in February, according to RISI, which referenced a Fibre Box Association (FBA), Itasca, Illinois, report that showed box shipments jumped 5.6 percent from a year ago but were only 0.6 percent higher on an average-week basis.

U.S. containerboard mills ran at 95.1 percent capacity rate in February, according to the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), Washington. That is nearly unchanged from 95.2 percent in January.

However, the domestic market remains in oversupply regarding finished box inventory.