Grays Harbor Paper Co. Shuts Down; 240 Employees Out of Work

After years of struggling to stay profitable in the current economy, Grays Harbor Paper Co. finally folded Thursday. Grays Harbor Paper employs about 240 people, who help produce copy and printing paper for businesses and organizations across the Northwest, including the City of Seattle, City of Portland, and Nike. Potentially all will be laid off.

The president of the company, Patrick Quigg, announced the Hoquiam mill will shut down, effective immediately.

The high price of raw materials, and decreased demand are blamed for the closure.

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Source: Northwest Cable News

  • Tein

    This is such a shame. Grays Harbor makes high-quality recycled paper, and their closure is not just a loss for Grays Harbor County, but also for the U.S. green manufacturing industry. It is increasingly difficult for recycled paper producers, particularly on the U.S. coasts, to get the waste paper needed for their recycling operations.

    Waste paper prices have more than doubled over the past decade, and supply can be volatile, making it very difficult to predict operating expenses and business conditions. A big part of the problem is the growing global trade in waste paper. More than 40% of the waste paper collected for recycling in the U.S. is exported. (Waste paper is America’s #1 export to China by volume and has been for years.) When it comes to waste paper, it’s often easier for waste haulers to ship paper 12,000 miles to China than to ship it from Seattle to Grays Harbor. The old paper doesn’t need to be cleanly sorted in order to be sold to China, where Chinese mills can do waste sorting by hand. Foreign demand for waste paper, along with commingled collection of recyclables, is creating a domestic scarcity of waste paper and raising raw material costs for U.S. recycled paper producers. This is playing a huge part in the shuttering of recycled paper mills such as Grays Harbor Paper.

    Municipal governments and companies are paying waste haulers to pick up their recyclables. Waste haulers not only make money from the entities generating the waste, but also from selling the waste to manufacturing firms that remake old materials into new products. Increasingly, recyclables are sold abroad, meaning that the resource conservation benefits are exported along with the paper. When it comes to paper production, the resource conservation benefits of making recycled paper — saving trees, energy, water, and chemicals — are transferred to the countries to whom we export our waste paper. The local communities doing the recycling don’t reap the conservation benefits of their activities. Also, domestic manufacturers have a harder time sourcing the recyclable materials they need to profitably operate. Recycled producers close their plants, good jobs are lost, green manufacturing gets offshored … it’s a vicious cycle.

    Yet, there are ample opportunities to reuse waste paper domestically, regionally and, in many areas, locally. High-volume users of paper (publishers, commercial printers), municipalities, large office buildings and other entities generating waste paper should ask their waste collection companies where their waste paper gets sold. They should consider contractual conditions mandating that a certain percentage of their recyclables be sold and used domestically. Organizations who are willing to sort their old paper can often command much higher prices selling their waste than selling the paper unsorted.

    We all have an interest in improving our domestic supply chain for recyclable materials. This means not just diverting more waste from landfills for recycling but also ensuring the recyclable material collected is used to its best advantage. Incorporating recyclable materials in domestic manufacturing offers significant economic and environmental advantages. We can all play a role in preserving our recyclables — an important part of our green manufacturing supply chain.