Hitting the Mark with Recycled Paper

This year during Paper Week in Chicago—now called Paper 2011—I escaped from the hotel and the meetings for a field trip. I traveled to the village of Alsip, about 15 miles south of Chicago. In Alsip, you feel like you’re still in the city.

I was invited to visit the FutureMark paper mill, which was unlike many others I’ve visited near the forests of Louisiana or Wisconsin or Quebec. This one is in an urban forest, and makes high-quality recycled paper.

I met with Steve Smith, VP of operations, who explained that FutureMark is a spin off from Myllykoski. The mill is now owned by The Watermill Group (a private equity company). FutureMark is the only company in North America capable manufacturing up to 100 percent recycled coated mechanical printing paper. It recovers and recycles magazines, catalogs, newspapers and printers’ waste.

In 2010, the company recycled more than 117,000 tons of paper and reached an all-time high utilization rate for recovered paper reuse of 96 percent. More than 80 percent of this goes into the paper, and the balance is short fibers, inks and coatings that are reused as an alternative to agricultural lime in a product called FutureMark High-Calcium Paper Lime.

Recovered magazines, catalogs and similar papers make up about 75 percent of the furnish, while old newspapers (ONP) are 10 to 20 percent. The mix also includes some higher brightness printers’ waste and up to 7 to 8 percent virgin Kraft softwood to control sheet strength.

One of the biggest challenges facing the mill is securing raw material in light of increasing exports of recovered fiber to China. In 2010, the United States shipped more than 10 million tons of waste paper to China, representing more than 60 percent of recovered fiber exports.

One solution is closed-loop recycling, which FutureMark is doing, for example, with a major airline that sends its expired in-flight magazines for recycling at the mill. This gives the airline a productive outlet for its old magazines, while assuring FutureMark a supply of good fiber. FutureMark also has been approached by several national retailers and Midwest printers about closed-loop recycling as a way to enhance their corporate CSR programs.

Jack Miller is founder and Principal Consultant at Market-Intell LLC, offering Need to Know™ market intelligence in paper, print and packaging. Previously, he was senior consultant, North America, with Pira International.

Known as the Paper Guru, Jack is the former director of Market Intelligence with Domtar, where he also held positions as regional sales manager, territory sales manager and product manager. He has presented at On Demand, RISI’s Global Outlook, PRIMIR, SustainCom World and at various IntertechPira conferences. Jack has written for Printing Impressions, Canadian Printer, Paper 360, PaperTree Letter and Package Printing, along with publishing a monthly e-newsletter, MarketIntellibits.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from The College of the Holy Cross and has done graduate studies in Statistics and Finance.

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