Indonesia’s 2% Contamination Threshold is a Win for ISRI and Recycling Industry

This week’s Industry Voices was written by Leonard Zeid, executive director of brokerage and marketing at Midland Davis, and first vice-chair of ISRI’s Paper Division.

Indonesia’s announcement allowing the importation of recycled materials with up to 2% impurities is a major victory for ISRI and the recycling industry. The association has been working on this issue since 2019 when the Indonesian government told ISRI the impurities threshold would start at 2% and transition to 0.5% in two years. ISRI staff and members played a crucial role in advocating to keep the higher limit. These efforts included trips to Indonesia, which I was fortunate enough to participate in. During these trips, ISRI staff and members briefed the government on the ISRI specifications, coinciding nicely with the training ISRI staff earlier conducted with testing, inspection, and certification provider Cotecna.

During my visit, I learned about the Indonesian government’s concerns, and participated in a lot of open and healthy discussions. These discussions were possible thanks to the groundwork laid by Adina Renee Adler, ISRI’s vice president of advocacy. Robin Wiener, ISRI’s president, also provided invaluable guidance and support during my visit. Ultimately, Indonesian officials realized that unless they accepted the 2% limit, the country’s mills would pay higher prices for commodities in the highly competitive Asian market.

One of the main commodities that will benefit from Indonesia’s decision is paper. Some countries are considering getting out of mixed paper, and pushing back on the specifications. None of them are going to do that right now, because their domestic companies are having a hard enough time getting paper in.

We all know what the rules are and how they’re implemented. The Indonesian government’s decision provides assurance that items will be received without any issues as long as they meet these specifications. Consistent quality markers, like ISRI’s internationally recognized specs, are a major part of having moving markets that are both good and fair.

ISRI advocating for its members on this issue was extremely effective. The voice of the recycling industry, ISRI is recognized and respected worldwide. I could not be prouder of what we accomplished as an association.