From Trees to Paper: A Tour of a Paper Mill

GreenBlue held the second-ever Forest Products Working Group meeting earlier this month at founding member Domtar’s headquarters in Fort Mill, SC. The full day meeting was extremely productive as the Working Group moves full steam ahead on its inaugural project, creating a common framework for sustainable paper products. Time was also dedicated to identifying the next project for the group to undertake.

An optional tour of Domtar’s state-of-art Marlboro integrated pulp and paper mill was offered to all Working Group members the day before the meeting. Domtar rented a van a drove six of us two hours away to Bennettsville, SC where the mill operates. The Marlboro mill is a relatively new pulp and paper mill built in 1990 and has an annual production of 338,000 tonnes of pulp and 389,000 tonnes of paper. We were fortunate to get a tour of the entire operation, from the trees being brought in and chipped to a final 35 tonne roll of paper coming off the paper machine. Our host Lewis Fix of Domtar also took us to a converting facility that takes those giant roles of paper and cuts them down into regular office paper that gets fed into your copy machine.

The most fascinating part of the entire tour, to me, was the paper machine. If you ever have an opportunity to visit a mill and actually see how pulp (a tree fiber slurry comprising of over 90% water) starts at one end and travels through a series of dries, presses, starching, and rollers over the distance of almost an entire city block, I would highly recommend it. These machines run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, putting a 140 miles (that’s right, I said miles) of paper on a roll in about two hours. The precision the paper mill operators are able to control and the thickness and basis weight is astounding.

Every pulp and paper mill around the globe has a different and unique way of making paper, from the chemical recipe used in pulping to the design of the paper machine, all to utilize available resources and create a product with unique value in the marketplace. The challenges related to environmental stewardship in the paper industry are very complex and have global implications. GreenBlue and the Forest Products Working Group recognizes the complexity of these challenges and see the value of convening with industry leaders to bring innovative and science-based solutions to the industry. I look forward to continuing to work with this group and its future members, in addition to getting to participate in any future facility and paper mill tours.

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