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NERC updates report with domestic recycled paper capacity increases

Several projects to consume recovered fiber have come online in the first half of 2021.

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The Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), Brattleboro, Vermont, has published its seventh "Summary of Announced Increased Capacity to Use Recycled Paper" report, which highlights projects to consume recovered paper in North America. According to the report, half of the projects tracked have been completed, while others are moving toward projected opening dates.

When NERC first published this list in November 2018, it included new capacity at 17 mills, of which three projects were completed. The list includes totally new paper mills, expansions of existing capacity at paper packaging mills and conversions of printed paper machines at existing mills to produce packaging paper. The list also includes several mills that are now producing recycled fiber pulp for export in addition to making packaging paper.

NERC last updated this report in January. The following projects have been completed since December 2020:

  • Packaging Corp. of America has converted from fine paper to linerboard production at the end of 2020 at its mill in Wallula, Washington. The conversion adds 350,000 tons per year of capacity. The mill consumes old corrugated containers (OCC).
  • Green Bay Packaging opened a mill in the spring of 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It produces 685,000 tons per year of containerboard and consumes OCC and mixed paper.
  • Nine Dragons has begun operations as of late 2020 and early 2021 at its mills in Fairmont, West Virginia; Biron, Wisconsin; and Rumford, Maine. All sites can consume OCC to produce recycled pulp.

In the first half of the year, Georgia-Pacific, Atlanta, also opened its Juno Technology facility in Toledo, Oregon, which serves as a stock prep system for the company’s mill that’s located in Toledo.

According to NERC, the following projects have been announced but not yet opened:

  • Nine Dragons is converting an existing machine to produce 200 tons per day and 70,000 tons per year of unbleached recycled pulp in Old Town, Maine. The site will consume OCC and is expected to begin operations this year.
  • Phoenix Paper planned to produce recycled pulp for export to China and initially had been scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2021. (Editor’s note: Bill Moore, president of Moore & Associates, tells Recycling Today he suspects this project has been canceled.)
  • Total Recycle Fiber planned to open a new mill in Chesapeake, Virginia, to produce 203,000 metric tons per year of dry recycled pulp and consume OCC in the fourth quarter of 2021. (Editor’s note: Moore tells Recycling Today he suspects this project has been canceled.)
  • NORPAC is converting existing production capacity to make linerboard, corrugated medium, bags and specialty kraft papers. Once completed in 2022, it will consume about 400,000 tons per year of OCC and mixed paper.
  • Crossroads Paper planned to make containerboard for corrugated boxes, producing 350,000 tons per year of packaging paper, at a new mill. It planned to consume 380,000 tons per year of OCC and mixed paper and to begin operations in 2022. (Editor’s note: Moore tells Recycling Today he suspects this project has been canceled.)
  • Kamine/Celadon is opening a facility in Tampa, Florida, that will make 400,000 tons per year of recycled pulp. It will consume OCC and mixed paper, with plans to begin operations in 2022.
  • Sonoco is increasing capacity at its facility in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, to produce uncoated recycled paperboard, which will consume OCC and mixed paper. It’s anticipated to start in 2022.
  • CorrVentures planned to build a mill in Albany, New York, to produce 300,000 tons per year of recycled lightweight containerboard, linerboard and corrugating medium using OCC and mixed paper. (Editor’s note: Moore tells Recycling Today he suspects this project has been canceled.)
  • Ecomelida in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, will process food and beverage cartons, including aseptic packages, and paper mill pulp byproducts. It’s expected to come online in the first quarter of 2022.
  • Graphic Packaging International is replacing smaller machines to make 500,000 tons per year of recycled paperboard. It’s expected to be finalized in the first quarter of 2022.
  • Atlantic Packaging Products is planning to open a mill to produce 400,000 metric tons per year of corrugated medium and linerboard in Whitby, Ontario. It will consume OCC and mixed paper and is expected to open in the first quarter of 2022.
  • Empire Recycled Fiber is opening a new facility in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, that will make 300,000 tons per year of containerboard. (Editor’s note: Moore says this facility initially was planning to make recycled pulp but it changed plans to make containerboard. Furnish will be 340,000 tons of OCC and mixed paper. He says it will likely be open by the third quarter of 2023.)
  • Cascades is converting a closed recycled newsprint mill to produce recycled lightweight linerboard and corrugated medium at a rate of 400,000 metric tons per year in Ashland, Virginia. It will consume OCC and mixed paper. It is expected to be operational by the fourth quarter of 2022.
  • Domtar is converting an existing printed paper mill to make packaging grades in Kingsport, Tennessee. It’s expected to produce 600,000 tons per year of recycled-content linerboard and corrugated medium and will consume OCC and mixed paper. It’s expected to come online in the first quarter of 2023.
  • Pratt Industries has announced plans to build two new mills that will consume OCC and mixed paper that will be built by 2026, but no locations have been formally announced.

NERC says most of these capacity increases are for mills producing linerboard and corrugated medium—they will use primarily OCC as their feedstock. These projects are less likely to use mixed paper unless their stock preparation system allows for its use. According to NERC, up to half of these mills plan to use mixed paper, though, but at lower input volumes than OCC.

Whether all of the new capacity is built depends on economic circumstances and demand for final products, NERC says. Total announced new capacity, if all projects are completed, will use more than 5 million tons per year of OCC and mixed paper.

The full report can be accessed online.