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The settlement of a 4-month-old papermaker strike in Thorold, Ont., is the key to returning Buffalo's newspaper recycling program to profitability, according to an official involved in the recyling effort.

Since the strike's beginning, the local operation has been withholding some newspapers and now has about 1,300 to 1,500 tons in storage at its Ganson Street facility, said Jack Quigley, manager of Integrated Waste Systems Inc.

The company operates the city's recycling operation. But just before collections started Sept. 10, the unions at the Quebec and Ontario Paper Co. Ltd. went on strike, shutting off a prime market.

"We paid $20 a ton to get rid of paper," Quigley said. "But at least it didn't go to landfills or incinerators, and Buffalo saved money."

About 17 percent of the paper collected must be rejected due to contamination or other reasons, Integrated said.

The city collected and turned over 753 tons from Sept. 10 to Sept 25, Quigley said, and 106 tons of that were processed and sold at a loss while 16 tons were rejected.

"We started baling the paper and holding some of it in storage, hoping for a settlement so we could sell rather than pay to have the paper recycled," Quigley said.

"We estimate that it will take from four to eight weeks before Quebec and Ontario are fully on line, and meanwhile there is a backlog of more than 25,000 tons of newspaper sitting around Ontario where people have been waiting for a settlement," he said.

Some of the paper was packed and sent to overseas markets, Quigley said.

The city has collected about 103 tons of corrugated cardboard during the period.

"We have some problems, a principal one being the practice of weekly newspapers distributing the paper in plastic bags," he said. "When people throw them in the blue box, we have to throw them out, we simply can't afford to remove them. Pizza boxes are also a problem, and some people throw anything in -- clothing, garbage, anything.

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