Water is essential to making paper and vital to our planet. The paper and wood products industry is constantly innovating to find new ways to preserve this critical natural resource for today and future generations.
An exciting innovation comes from Green Bay Packaging. This year, their Green Bay mill achieved net-zero water. This is the first time this has ever been accomplished.
“[We] designed a water system that moves water in a way that makes paper while consuming less water. Water is also reused many times before new water is added to replenish the supply needed to make paper,” said Lisa Bauer-Lotto, Corporate Director, Environment & Sustainability at Green Bay Packaging. “In fact, the amount of recycled and reclaimed water we use is more than the amount of fresh water to the mill.”
At the Green Bay mill, the total gallons of reused and reclaimed water is more than the amount of new freshwater supply. This concept is commonly called net-zero water use.
“Green Bay Packaging’s net-zero water system embraces the paper industry’s stewardship on the protection of water resources, the water quality in the community and aligns with AF&PA’s Better Practices, Better Planet 2030 water goal to drive water stewardship throughout the industry manufacturing operations,” Bauer-Lotto said.
This project was validated by Underwriters Laboratory (UL), a global leader in establishing standards and third-party validation in the areas of environment, science and sustainability. This was important to the credibility and transparency of the project.
Both the validation and net-zero water are landmark achievements for Green Bay Packaging and the paper and wood products industry. This project significantly increases the amount of water reused and reduces the reliance on fresh water from the Great Lakes.
“The paper industry’s continuous reductions on impacts to water resources and improvements to water quality are noteworthy. The paper industry drives innovation to conserve and recycle water to close the water loop through consistent technological advancements, innovation and industry goals,” Bauer-Lotto said.
While this project focuses on water, Bauer-Lotto said there are many examples of how the paper and wood products industry is contributing to a circular economy.
“The paper industry has been implementing sustainability practices of recycling (circular economies of fiber) and water recycling long before it was a social model,” she said.
You can’t make paper without water. Bauer-Lotto said that’s why the use and management of water is key. Water stewardship is about preserving critical resources for today and future generations.
“These water stewardship efforts and investment are poised to yield even larger benefits to our environment as consumers increasingly shift to sustainable paper packaging and display their expectations on improving sustainability performance,” Bauer-Lotto said.
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) serves to advance U.S. paper and wood products manufacturers through fact-based public policy and marketplace advocacy. The forest products industry is circular by nature. AF&PA member companies make essential products from renewable and recycle resources, generate renewable bioenergy and are committed to continuous improvement through the industry’s sustainability initiative—Better Practices, Better Planet 2030: Sustainable Products for a Sustainable Future. The forest products industry accounts for approximately four percent of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures nearly $300 billion in products annually and employs approximately 950,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of approximately $60 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 states. Visit AF&PA online at afandpa.org or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper.