Sappi North America is a Shining Example of Sustainability

(3BL Media/Justmeans) Can an industry that creates products from trees be sustainable? The US forest products industry proves it is possible. Accounting for 6 percent of the country’s total manufacturing GDP, the industry places a premium on recycling and using renewable energy. Over 66 percent of the paper consumed in 2011 was recovered. Consisting of about 250 companies, the industry is the leading generator and user of renewable energy. Almost two-thirds of its total energy use is from renewable sources—and it is the largest producer of bioenergy in the industrial sector.

Sappi North America, part of South African-based Sappi Limited, is a good example of sustainability at work in the US forest products industry. Renewable energy is used in part to produce its products, and they are designed to be reused or recycled. Over 70 percent of the energy used in its mills is from renewable sources. Since energy is the company’s third largest expense related to papermaking, using renewable sources helps provide savings to its operations while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

At its Somerset and Westbrook, Maine and Cloquet, Minnesota mills, Sappi North America converts trees into pulp to make paper and textile fibers. During the process, tree bark and knots are captured in order to fuel a process that generates renewable energy. The chemicals used to cook wood chips are also recycled during the process. Becoming more energy efficient is as important as using renewable energy, and the company has implemented energy efficiency projects. In 2016, its Somerset Mill implemented efficient lighting projects within the paper mill and heat recovery in the paper drying process. Both projects have lowered total energy use and operating costs.

The company embraces circular economy models and sustainable materials management. Recycling is a key part of the circular economy, and an important part of Sappi’s operations. All of its graphics and packaging papers are recyclable. At its Westbrook facility it uses construction and demolition wood, and at its Somerset mill it uses tire-derived fuel. Using those materials keeps them out of landfills and lowers the energy costs at the mills. Sappi also reuses its own by-products. The Cloquet mill has a partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension Service to divert boiler ash and lime mud from landfill and use them as soil amendments.

Recovering paper is necessary to avoid generating methane emissions in landfill. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 23 times that of carbon dioxide. Sappi supports educational outreach and programs leading to a higher recovery of paper. In 2015, the company began supporting Recycling Works in Publishing (RWIP), which is part of the Recycling Partnership, a non-profit organization that aims to transform recycling across the US In 2016, the partnership worked directly with over 200 communities and reached more than 8 million households.

Photo: Sappi North America