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.