Shipping the Goods
The culmination of all the efforts of sorting and packing the paper into bales was selling them to paper mills. This was handled through a broker and prices for the different grades of paper was based on the demand the mills had at any time for them to use in making products.
The price for waste paper varied on market conditions and the grade of paper. Mixed papers, which was mostly office waste, was the lowest grade and brought a low price. Sometimes when the price dropped too low this paper was taken to dumps until demand and prices from the mills rose.
The better grades of paper (for example, colored ledgers, white ledgers, corrugated) which brought higher process also changed over time based on the differing needs for papers that the mills needed to produce goods. An illustration is the demand for tabulator (punched) cards that were used to program mainframe computers in the mid-20th century. From not being a grade in the early part of the century, they were the most valuable waste paper by the 1960’s, as vast amounts were needed until computer programming changed in the late 1970’s; in fact, tab cards are now almost non-existent.
This change, driven by technology, was always a factor in the paper stock business. The photograph to the left shows a smaller pre-WWII truck which is loading mixed paper bales to go to a mill. At the mills, the used paper would be unloaded and dumped into large vats of acids that broke the paper down into pulp which was then formulated into a paper for another product.
Since the price paid to the paper stock dealer was based on weight (usually a certain amount per hundred pounds), sometimes tricks were used to increase the weight of the bales. It was known for bales to be returned from the mills after they were discovered to contain more than paper.
There are stories of bathtubs, kitchen sinks, and toilet bowls returning to a paper stock dealer inside a bale of paper. But, there were also other stories of mills asking for bales from certain dealers knowing they contained more than paper. Apparently, one dealer decided to get rid of the wire strapping he had by putting it in bales of corrugated cardboard. The mill never caught it until the mixing process was completed, but realized the added material actually helped the process by wrapping around the acid vat’s cutting blades improving their efficiency.