After what it calls “a pandemic-driven spike in e-commerce and the spread of unrecyclable problem plastics,” United Kingdom-based DS Smith is marking the first anniversary of the opening of its paper recycling plant in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The company says it is operating a “circular economy trifecta” thanks to the combination of its year-old recycling plant, paper mill and packaging manufacturing facility, all within a few miles of each other in Reading.
“Having these three facilities in such close proximity enables us to reduce corrugated waste to local landfills with our 14-day box-to-box process, where we collect, recycle and convert old corrugated containers (OCC) into new, sustainable packing, ready for the supply chain,” says Giancarlo Maroto, DS Smith managing director of paper, forestry and recycling for North America. “The best part is we can recycle the cardboard and boxes seven to 10 times, contributing to the circular economy model of reduce, reuse and recycle.”
The three Reading plants – deemed essential businesses – kept 300 jobs operating during the past year, processed 20,000 tons of fiber at the recycling facility and consumed nearly 240,000 tons of recovered fiber, mostly OCC, at its paper mill.
The concept allows corrugated packaging to be made, produced, collected and recycled within just 14 days, which DS Smiths calls “critical as retailers have scrambled to keep pace with higher demands for shipping boxes from stay-at-home shoppers over the past year.”
Reading’s circular approach is a model for the company's operational expansion in North America and demonstrates DS Smith’s commitment to accelerating the transition to a circular economy, the firm says.
The local recycling facility, capable of processing more than 36,000 tons of OCC each year, contributes to the company’s goal of sending zero cardboard and paper to landfills after its packaging is used.
The recycling plant takes in scrap paper and cardboard and compresses it into bales as heavy as one ton each. The bales are sent across the street to the paper mill, where it is processed into the recycled-content paper used at the nearby packaging facility.
In addition to material from DS Smith’s Reading corrugated packaging plant, the DS Smith team in Pennsylvania has worked with other companies in the region to recover paper for recycling from local distribution centers, packaging facilities, retailers and print shops.
The result was what DS Smith calls “1 billion square feet of sustainable, recyclable packaging produced at the Reading packaging facility, advancing sustainability while providing critical packaging materials for the global supply chain at a time of unprecedented challenges.”
DS Smith’s North American operations are based in Atlanta, and it has 15 manufacturing, paper and recycling facilities in North America with more than 2,000 employees.