In mid-July, Crossroads Paper held a press conference to announce its plans to build a paper mill in the Salt Lake City area that will recycle old corrugated containers (OCC) and residential mixed paper into new paper that will then be used to make boxes for manufacturers, farmers and e-commerce companies.
The $320 million project is expected to create several hundred new direct and indirect jobs in the Salt Lake Valley, with a total economic impact exceeding $1 billion over 10 years, Ron and John Sasine, the brothers behind the project, say.
John Sasine is CEO of Crossroads Paper, while Ron Sasine is the project developer. They launched the project in 2016, forming a special-purpose development company in 2017 that then became Crossroads Paper in 2018.
John Sasine is the owner of Rocky Mountain Recycling LLC, Salt Lake City. Rocky Mountain Recycling operates four material recovery facilities (MRFs) in the region that process recyclables collected from commercial businesses and individuals.
While it’s common for paper mills to vertically integrate into processing recyclables, John Sasine will be the first MRF operator to vertically integrate into paper production.
In addition to his role with Crossroads Paper, Ron Sasine serves as the principal of Hudson Windsor LLC, a Bentonville, Arkansas-based packaging consultancy. His background includes leading packaging design, development and execution for Walmart's private brand businesses.
“We recognized that John’s background in the recycling industry and mine in papermaking were a good start but not everything that we would need,” Ron Sasine says. “We gathered a diverse group of people that could contribute to the growth of this project. It’s a locally developed and locally focused project but with a global background.”
The Sasine brothers’ partners include Yates Construction, a Philadelphia, Mississippi-based construction services provider that has experience in paper mill development; Finnish company Valmet, which provides technology, services and automation for the paper industry; Sweden-based Cellmark, which specializes in international trade and distribution of raw materials related to the global pulp and paper industry; and Credit Suisse, which will asset with financing for the project.
The Sasines say their own investment in Crossroads Paper exceeds seven figures at this point. “We can’t be as far as we are without having spent real money,” John Sasine says.
Ron Sasine says they selected the intermountain west region for their mill’s location because it is a “historically underrepresented region in papermaking.” However, he says, demand for packaging materials, specially containerboard, is growing in the region, which includes Utah and the neighboring states of Nevada, Idaho, Arizona and Colorado.
John Sasine says the lack of papermaking capacity in the region means that “every bale of collected fiber—from OCC to ONP (old newspapers) to SOP (sorted office paper)—has to get put on a truck or train and sent hundreds of miles away.”
With the advent of China’s recovered fiber import restrictions and the disruptions they created in the U.S. recovered fiber market, John Sasine says Rocky Mountain Recycling “found ourselves in a great disadvantage.”
He adds, “What had always been at the back of my mind got into the front of my mind very quickly.”
Crossroads Paper has narrowed its list of possible sites to a couple of locations along the western edge of the Salt Lake Valley between Interstate 15 and Interstate 80 and along the eastern edge of the adjoining valley, John Sasine says. The company is in discussions with the landowners and developers to gain site control.
Crossroads Paper is not looking to locate along a major river in Utah but will instead use municipally supplied groundwater.
“The mill will include its own water treatment systems and will operate at a lower water demand than comparable mills,” Ron Sasine says. A pretreatment system also will allow Crossroads Paper to reuse water generated by its industrial neighbors.
At 1 million to 1.2 million gallons daily, John Sasine says Crossroads Paper “can use literally a fraction of what traditionally has been used in papermaking.”
Crossroads Paper plans to feature one papermaking machine with the capacity to produce 350,000 to 375,000 tons per year. The Sasines say they expect the mill to consume 385,000 tons of recovered fiber annually, both in the form of OCC and mixed paper, with OCC accounting for an expected 70 percent of the mill’s furnish.
While Rocky Mountain Recycling will be a key supplier to the mill, it will not be the sole supplier, the Sasines say.
“The mill is being configured to accept a broad range of fiber types and qualities,” Ron Sasine says. He adds that incoming OCC and mixed paper will be blended to meet the final specifications of the paper grade to be manufactured.
“Corrugated will have a higher percentage of mixed paper,” Ron Sasine says. “Test liner grades will have higher OCC content.”
“A recycled mill like this will produce about half its volume in corrugated medium,” John Sasine says. “But we’re looking for an event split of medium to linerboard. That will get determined in the fullness of time as we get specific offtake agreements.”
Cellmark will manage the mill’s offtake agreements. “Specific commitments to specific companies will be determined in the coming months,” Ron Sasine says.
Crossroads Paper expects to begin ramping up production in the second quarter of 2022,” John Sasine says. Other mills that have used the same Valmet technology that Crossroads Paper will be using “ramp on the machine quite fast,” he adds.
Many leaders in the recycling and sustainability sectors have said that recycling in the U.S. needs to be realigned to bring recycling assets closer to where recyclables are generated, Ron Sasine says. “This project is about exactly that.”