CLOQUET – For proof that a long-term commitment to sustainability pays dividends, look no further than Sappi Fine Paper, a division of South Africa-based Sappi Group, the world leader in producing fine coated printing paper.
Serious about sustainability, the Cloquet mill has steadily embraced new environmental technologies and practices over time. In 2013, Sappi retrofitted their mill to begin dissolving wood pulp into specialized cellulose, a product in high demand for manufacturing clothing and textiles. Sappi staff recognized a great opportunity to reduce waste and increase recycling.
Large amounts of fiber and raw materials waste are commonly generated during papermaking. This waste, or combustible derived fuel (CDF), was historically burned on site in boilers producing steam and electricity, but CDF is more valuable as recycled material.
Sappi staff asked Minnesota Waste Wise for help recycling CDF, and finding other ways to boost sustainability. After visiting the mill, Waste Wise connected Sappi with Sandstone nonprofit PHASE, an organization that provides employment-based services to adults with disabilities. One year later, PHASE has recycled more than 1 million pounds of CDF for Sappi. Waste Wise also assisted Sappi in doubling can, bottle and glass recycling by implementing single sort collection.
Waste reduction is just one of many major sustainability initiatives that save Sappi millions of dollars each year.
“Sustainability is a core value for Sappi,” says Robert Schilling, Environmental Manager at Sappi. “We have a demonstrated history of setting goals and achieving results for reduction of waste and increased efficiency. Sappi is committed to pollution prevention, continual improvement and reduction of our impact on the environment.”
Sappi operates numerous reuse programs for its industrial byproducts. Boiler ash/dregs and organic degritter material are approved for land application, such as for roadbed fill, and Sappi distributes lime mud under a program managed by the US Department of Agriculture.
Reuse has tripled the life expectancy of the mill’s landfill and reduced disposal costs. Equally important, reuse programs strengthen community relationships. For example, the lime mud that is shared with local farmers would cost growers more than $50 a ton to buy.
As to the program with the most dramatic economic impact, the mill’s Environmental Manager Robert Schilling credits the company’s energy efficiency program which saves an estimated $3.5 million annually.
These impressive numbers are expected to grow further as Sappi has set a 20% waste reduction goal for 2015.