The demand for traditional newsprint may be on the wane but an ongoing FPInnovations pulp and paper research project focusing on transitional products — new applications and markets for newsprint, such as packaging products, holds promising results for our member mills.
One of the opportunities that FPInnovations scientists have identified is using existing thermomechanical pulp (TMP) and paper-mill equipment to produce the ubiquitous fast-service restaurant take-out bag: “We’re exploring new prospects for our members to offset the declining newsprint market by creating a new market for them where they can manufacture a new paper grade on existing paper machines with no or minimal capital investment,” explains Tingjie (Gary) Li, an FPInnovations scientist working on the project.
The first phase of the project saw researchers working with paper mills to adjust the pulp furnish and paper-making process in order to create a specialized paper grade. Benchmarking against traditional paper bags, mechanical print and writing papers must be more tear-resistant, have more tensile strength, and be more water-resistant than they currently are in their traditional uses. Experimenting with different chemicals and pulps has resulted in encouraging outcomes, which have enabled FPInnovations scientists to move from mill trials to converting trials.
The second phase of the project is a collaboration with a package converting company to conduct bag-conversion trials using prototype paper grades: “In this new market, mills should be able to sell the enhanced newsprint at a higher profit margin,” says Li. “Though the market price-point for bag paper is significant, the market itself is not very large, but If we can adjust the pulp furnish to produce a new generation of brown bag paper on existing equipment, our member mills will have access to a secondary market at a very critical time for the industry, while continuing to supply the traditional newsprint market.”
In addition to developing a new paper grade for brown bags, FPInnovations scientists have identified more opportunities for transitioning mechanical printing and writing papers to produce among other products, wrappers for butter and quick-service restaurant hamburgers.