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Author Topic: Finding New Use for Paper  (Read 735 times)

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Finding New Use for Paper
« on: December 30, 2012, 09:34:56 AM »
With the decline in paper use......minds are scrambling to find new ways to use our trees.

This is an article about a business in my town, "Rock Hill, S.C.". I thought this was REAL interesting.


By Don Worthington —

Appropriately, Domtar’s Rock Hill converting center in the Tech Park off Dave Lyle Boulevard is hidden by trees. Historically, trees are what Domtar is all about.

Inside Domtar’s facility, rolls of paper from the company’s mills in Arkansas and Kentucky are stacked to the ceiling, six rolls high in most cases. Adjacent to the warehouse are the converting machines. They look like giant printing presses, but instead of dispensing ink, they turn the rolls of paper into smaller rolls, or into individual business forms.

The machines run round the clock, producing on average between 175 to 225 tons of business forms a day. The plant employs 58 people. Several have been there since the plant opened in 1988.

At one time, the Rock Hill operation was one of seven Domtar-owned plants making forms for businesses such banks, insurance companies and credit card companies. A plant staple was the pin-wheel form used in large dot-matrix printers. The pin-wheel forms still come off the line, but in less quantity.

Now, because of the push to go paperless, the Rock Hill plant is one of three Domtar converting centers. It ships forms mostly to businesses east of the Mississippi River, but some forms make the cross-country trip.

“We are the largest producer left in the business,” said plant manager Drake Roach. “We’re the best in the business in what we do and these folks care about sustaining this business.”

Sustainability is the key word for Domtar and other paper companies. By Domtar’s own estimates, it is losing 2 to 4 percent of its market share annually because of changing consumer habits.

The industry decline has been felt regionally as Resolute Forest Products, formerly Bowater, has suspended some operations at its Catawba Mill because of market conditions. Union workers at the plant recently ratified a new agreement they hope will result in no more layoffs or job losses.

One of Domtar’s strategies is finding new markets for its pulp. In 2011 it acquired Attends North America, and in 2012 it acquired Attends Europe. Both plants produce adult diapers, and Domtar foresees great growth in the adult incontinence market. Growth in the fluff pulp market, said David Struhs, vice president of sustainability, is predicted to be between 6 and 8 percent annually.

Much of Domtar’s sustainability conversations take place at its Fort Mill operations center, where one half of the company leadership team is located as well as sales, customer service and mill manufacturing operations. In all, 450 Domtar employees work in Fort Mill.

The conversations follow two tracks. One is the traditional sustainability talk of how a business make an environmentally friendly product.

In Domtar’s case, it means working not only with environmental groups, but with tree farms to make sure what’s being done is in the best interest of Domtar – and the area where the trees are being harvested.

It means looking at sustainability from the perspectives of economics, local social impact, labor and the environment.

Sustainability also means looking at pulp differently. It is not just a part of the paper-making process. Domtar, and other paper companies, are looking at pulp’s components to see if there are more profitable uses.

Lignin is the glue that holds wood fibers together, Struhs said. It is removed during the paper-making process, yielding a substance called “black liquor.” Historically, it has been burned in boilers at the mills – “not used to its highest value,” Struhs said.

Lignin extracted from pulp has the potential for high-value commercial uses, Struhs said.

It could be used in bio-fuels, in industrial bulk chemicals, or in some resins. It has also been studied for use in coatings and for use in carbon fiber manufacturing.

Domtar is installing a lignin extraction system at its mill in Plymouth, N.C., near the coast, and should be in production in early 2013.

Resolute Forest Products also has a lignin extraction project at its Thunder Bay mill in Ontario.

Another process is extracting nanocrystalline cellulose from the pulp. Domtar has a pilot program with FPInnovations at its Windsor, Quebec, mill. Struhs said nanocrystalline cellulose, or NCC, has several interesting qualities.

“It can conduct or resist electricity; it can reflect or absorb light; and it can be a green way of making carbon-fiber materials,” he said.

NCC is lightweight, super-strong and non-toxic and could be spun into high-strength fibers.

The second phase of Domtar’s sustainability conversation focuses on making paper relevant in a world that’s being pushed to go paperless.

Domtar has launched a campaign called “Paper Because.” The campaign examines the benefits of paper and its place in a multi-media world.

As a producer of paper for textbooks, Domtar says there are demonstrated benefits to reading from a book rather than a e-reader.

In its “Paper Because” campaign, Domtar cited a number of studies that claim paper is a better tool for learning information. A study by researchers at Cambridge University found it is easier to be distracted when reading online. A study at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business concluded e-readers were too rigid for a fast-paced classroom environment where students needed to move between pages, documents, charts and graphs quickly.

Struhs said paper is a better alternative when assembling thoughts. Typically, a person will outline his thoughts, jot down questions and connect ideas by drawing arrows or circling things.

“What you are doing is mapping your thought process on paper,” Struhs said. “It’s more difficult to do that on a screen. Computers are better to store and sort information. The creative process starts on paper.”

A recent survey by the Pew Internet Research Center showed an increase in e-reading over the past year. In 2011, 16 percent of Americans participating in the poll said they read an e-book. That percentage jumped to 23 percent in 2012.

In the book-reading population, according to the Pew survey, those most likely to read e-books include those with college or graduate degrees, those who live in households earning more than $75,000, and those whose ages fall between 30 and 49.

The Domtar campaign also suggests that paper serves a valuable role in prompting action, particularly in area of finances. Struhs said he recently got some financial information in the mail. He opened the envelope and reviewed the information.

“It prompted me to check out my accounts. Would I have come home and goneon the computer to do that? Not likely,” he said.

Domtar hopes to expand its “Paper Because” campaign in 2013 by focusing more on youths, said Kathy Wholley, director of advertising and communications who directs the campaign.

“Paper is relevant, paper is valuable,” Wholley said.

And while Domtar will continue to use a multi-media approach in its transition from a paper company to a fiber technology, much of that story will continue to be told – on paper.

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Offline Axe Handle Hound

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Re: Finding New Use for Paper
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2012, 11:17:00 AM »
I probably do 90% plus of my work on a computer, but I'll agree with this article that when it comes to mapping out a new idea or design, I reach for a piece of scratch paper every time.  My hometown here in Wisconsin was a paper producing giant not so many years ago, but now the place is a ghost town.  Almost all the mills are shut down and lots of people are out of work.  The push for a paperless society definitely has impacts that a lot of people don't see. 

Offline Den Socling

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Re: Finding New Use for Paper
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2012, 11:49:36 AM »
Paper used to be big business in the Lock Haven, PA area. Gradually, all the mills closed. Then along comes First Quality. They make all kinds of disposable paper products. They now employ around 3500 people.

Offline hackberry jake

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Re: Finding New Use for Paper
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2012, 12:23:14 PM »
I work for a printing company. I have been working there for over 8 years. I have seen massive losses of volume since I started. When I started we had over 150 employees in the manufacturing area. Now we are down to less than 50. They have had "early retirement" and "voluntary layoff" and other programs trying to avoid laying people off. I have been laid off three times in the 8 years. Paper is going the way of the dinosaurs.

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