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AF&PA announces award-winning sustainability projects

The association has presented eight awards to companies for their efforts to improve workplace safety and the environment.

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October 28, 2021

The Washington-based American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) has announced its 2021 Sustainability Award winners. The association says these awards recognize exemplary sustainability programs and initiatives in the paper and wood products manufacturing industry.  

“This year was a record-setting year,” says Heidi Brock, AF&PA president and CEO. “We received more submissions than ever before. This trend underscores the value of sustainability to our industry. Our members strive to reach new limits of possibility, and these awards allow us to shine a spotlight on industry innovation.” 

According to a news release from AF&PA, the Sustainability Award winners demonstrate the industry’s commitment to improving practices that result in a brighter future and better planet. The following are this year’s winners:

Leadership in Sustainability Award – Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Georgia-Pacific, Atlanta: Quilted Northern Ultra Soft & Strong

Georgia-Pacific’s Quilted Northern brand says it saves 30 percent more water and uses 30 percent less energy by using efficient manufacturing technology to squeeze more water from tissue paper before drying.

Leadership in Sustainability Award – Safety

WestRock, Atlanta: Hazard Hunter Program

WestRock says its Hazard Hunter Program engages teammates to identify and address hazards that could result in safety incidents. New and improved safety procedures are documented in traditional standard operating procedures but then also filmed for a video library to support multidimensional learning. The team approach has resulted in the identification of hundreds of potential hazards and advances WestRock’s goal toward a 100 percent safe workplace.

Leadership in Sustainability Award – Sustainable Forest Management

Green Bay Packaging, Green Bay, Wisconsin

Green Bay Packaging partnered with the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI), American Forest Foundation and the American Tree Farm System to advance and pioneer the SFI Small Lands Group Module Certification. Since starting the program in 2020, Green Bay says it has qualified more than 100 landowners representing more than 40,000 acres. This partnership adds value for family landowners to increase certified sustainable forests in the U.S., while at the same time reducing barriers, like the cost of certification.

Leadership in Sustainability Award – Water 

Essity, Stockholm, Sweden: Midwest Region

Through initiative, creative thinking and teamwork and without major capital investments, Essity’s Midwest team improved effluent water quality and increased water conservation. At its Menasha, Wisconsin, paper mill, Essity decreased direct discharges of phosphorus by 55 percent and total suspended solids by 35 percent and reduced its fresh water use by 20 percent. At its converting facility in Neenah, the team reduced municipal water use by 20 percent.

Leadership in Sustainability Award – Paper Recovery for Recycling 

New-Indy Ontario, Ontario, California

New-Indy improved repulping systems at its Ontario, California, mill by adding additional screening and detrashing capacity. The additional equipment delivered a higher fiber recovery yield and provided the ability to consume mixed paper in all products without sacrificing quality. In addition to raw material cost savings, New-Indy’s waste stream was also reduced. The improved fiber recovery efficiency resulted in 5,500 tons less waste leaving the mill. Additionally, 10,000 tons of mixed paper with no outlet were processed by the mill and diverted from the landfill.

Leadership in Sustainability Award – Paper Recovery for Recycling

WestRock, Atlanta

WestRock teamed up with Domino’s and other industry partners to clear up misconceptions about pizza box recycling. The project took the following approach: 

  • study the impact of grease and cheese on recycling;
  • assess consumer access to pizza box recycling; and
  • launch a public educational portal to spread the word that pizza boxes are recyclable.

According to the award entry, an estimated 3 billion pizzas are consumed in the U.S. each year or about 600,000 tons of potential fiber recovery.

Innovation in Sustainability Award

Georgia-Pacific, Atlanta

Georgia-Pacific introduced three innovations in 2020 to address the recyclability of products. Partnering with a major online retailer, Georgia-Pacific developed a paper-based mailer that is 100 percent curbside recyclable. The company also introduced Dixie ecosmart 100 percent Recycled Fiber Hot Cups made from 100 percent postconsumer recycled fiber. Georgia-Pacific is also working to increase paper cup recycling by investing in recycling infrastructure and working with municipalities to increase acceptance of paper cups to curbside recycling programs.

Innovation in Sustainability Award

Sonoco Hartsville, California

Sonoco introduced EnviroSense PaperBlister packaging, a recyclable alternative to the traditional blister packaging, that works with existing sealing equipment lines. EnviroSense PaperBlister packages are made entirely from renewable resources and are curbside recyclable. According to the entry, the all-paper packaging offers a more sustainable option that is highly efficient in the delivery stream, allowing more packages per truckload and reduced shipping costs.

AF&PA says its 2021 Sustainability Award winners were selected by a judging panel of sustainability experts from the Department of Energy, GreenBlue, Quad Packaging and the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology.