March 14, 2005

Recycling partners devise method for measuring how much log bundling wire is being recovered

As Environment Canada's Log Bundling Strand Recycling Initiative enters its fifth year, new ways are being developed and implemented to measure how much bundling strand is being kept out of Canadian waters. These measurement techniques enable the program's industry and government partners to evaluate how well the program is working at the mill level and to help refine recovery practices for this material.

Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada launched the recycling initiative in the spring of 2001 to encourage BC's forest industry to handle log bundling strand-the galvanized wire rope used to hold log bundles together during water transport to mills-in an environmentally responsible way. The driving force behind the program was an April 1, 2003 deadline, after which log bundling strand would no longer be allowed when dredging and ocean disposal permits were issued.

Developed in consultation with industry stakeholders, the program served to raise awareness about the issue and explain the impact of the proposed policy and regulatory changes on the business community. "By listening to the concerns of the business community while providing information about the environmental, social and economic benefits of recycling, we were able to develop a really successful program with industry's help," says Sean Standing of Environment Canada.

The success of the program was evident in the first year when the amount of wire collected from mills increased by 450%. Between 2002 and 2003, that amount increased another 400%. The initial creation of the program was followed up with the distribution of a detailed information package (ELW April 14, 2003).

With the initiative well under way, Environment Canada then wanted to find the best way of tracking how much wire was being recaptured and recycled. Developing a consistent tracking method would provide clear evidence of the program's positive impacts. This would include determining the ultimate fate of the 38 million feet (11.6 million metres) of bundling strand previously unaccounted for each year. Tracking would also help each mill monitor how effectively it is recapturing the bundling wire and develop the best strand capture system for its particular business.

The first step in calculating how effectively a mill is capturing bundling strand is to figure out not only how much wire is being recycled, but also how much is coming in. Half of that equation is already being done.

"We measure by weight the amount of wire we take out and we give each mill a statement at the end of the year," says Fred Schiller of Fred Schiller Boom. But that number doesn't give the whole picture. "Without knowing how much wire is going in, we can't know what percentage is being recovered," says Schiller.

Figuring out exactly how much wire is coming into the mill is harder than it would seem, however, because wire comes in different diameters and is used in different lengths to bundle logs. To tackle this challenge, Environment Canada worked with mills over the past year to gather information on their experience with bundling strand. The department used this information to create a method for estimating the amount of bundling strand being handled. An estimate of the amount of wire can be made based on the incoming quantity of wood.

Though not an exact science, Richard Ringma, general manager (fibre supply) for Weyerhaeuser Canada's BC Coastal Group, feels it is a good measure of how successful each mill is at recovering bundling strand. "We can't sit there and count every strand off," he says, "but we know how much wood we've brought into the mill and we know the weight of what's gone out of the recycle bins so we've got some numbers to give us a good idea of how we're doing."

Using Environment Canada's estimating method, mills can figure out the amount of wire coming into the mill based on the volume of wood being processed. If the amount of wire being recycled is significantly different than the wire coming in, mills can tell that wire handling practices need to be adjusted.

The incentive to keep track of wire entering the mill and the volume being recycled can be found in a mill's bottom line. If a significant amount of wire is ending up in the water, for example, dredging could become a lot more expensive.

"With wire, dredge material is harder to get off the scow," says Bernie Jebson of Fraser River Pile & Dredge. "When wire was a big part of the dredge, we would sometimes need to get a clam rigger to get it off, because a front loader couldn't do it. If we had to take a rig out to offload the strand, that would cost the client a lot more money. But as long as the mills keep the wire out of the dredge, that's no longer an issue."

Gradually, mills are beginning to use this way of calculating the amount of bundling strand coming into their yards and the whole monitoring process is simply becoming another part of doing business. In fact, the recycling of log bundling strand has become such a basic part of the mills' daily activities that certification bodies are starting to consider how a mill handles bundling strand as part of their certification process.

Some certification requirements are designed to show how mills are working towards continuous improvement. This is an opportunity that companies like Weyerhaeuser welcome. "Certification is nothing new to us, it's just a way of life, so adding another element is not a big deal," says Ringma. "In fact, showing how effectively we are handling strand is simply another way of highlighting that we're doing good job."

While some mills were starting to recycle their bundling wire before the recycling initiative began, its creation, assisted by the forest industry itself, has produced a culture shift that continues to grow. The new monitoring tools being developed give mills a much clearer view of what is happening within their own operations and can create a more co-ordinated effort within the company as a whole. This information, together with the industry's continued focus on improvement, is enabling the mills to create a low-cost, effective capture and recycling system with long-term environmental and economic benefits.

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