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White Birch Paper newsprint mill ceases production

The Bear Island newsprint mill operated by White Birch Paper Co. in Hanover County, Virginia, has been idled, according to a report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

White Birch, Greenwich, Connecticut, restarted the mill last year after a previous shutdown in 2017. However, the company announced March 8 it would cease production of newsprint effective immediately.

White Birch sold the mill to Kingsey Falls, Quebec-based Cascades Inc. in July 2018. Last year, Cascades announced plans to invest $275 million into the mill to make recycled paper products. Before the conversion takes place, White Birch Paper planned to temporarily operate the site as a newsprint mill under a 27-month lease.

However, Christopher Brant, president of White Birch Paper, released a statement the first week of March saying, “the idea and attempt to keep the employees of Bear Island active through the mill’s transition in ownership and grade production has come to an unfortunate and premature end.

“We walked into this project believing that the U.S. trade actions surrounding the uncoated groundwood paper business made the mill’s output a necessity for customers in the U.S. market for the two years planned,” Brant continues. “A challenging restart of the mill and zero-tariff environment have forced us to weigh the viability of continuing production amidst waning market support for the mill and the perceived advantages it has to offer.”

Cascades still plans to start production of containerboard at the plant in 2021, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. That plan is contingent on final approval by Cascades’ board of directors.

South Dakota MRF adds paper cups

A partnership with the Foodservice Packaging Institute (FPI), Falls Church, Virginia, has allowed material recovery facility (MRF) operator Millennium Recycling Inc., Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to add paper cups to its list of acceptable recyclables.

“We are committed to giving our customers in Sioux Falls, Yankton, Huron, southwest Minnesota and beyond the opportunity to provide a new life for recycled cups—not just send them to the landfill,” says Shannon Dwire, president of Millennium Recycling.

Roughly 600,000 tons of paper beverage cups are used each year in the United States, Millennium says, with the majority of this material ending up in landfills as they were once thought to be unrecyclable because of their plastic lining, which insulates the cup and prevents leaks. However, a growing number of mills recognize that these cups are a source of high-quality fiber and are recycling them into new products, including tissue, boxes and pulp to make new cups, the company adds.

“The team at FPI is working with us on communication efforts,” says Marissa Begley, who handles marketing and communications for Millennium. She adds that FPI also is supporting the company with social media messaging.

“Other than that, no equipment or process changes have been implemented at Millennium,” Begley says.

Each year, Millennium processes about 50,000 tons of recyclables. The company will send its cups and other paper items to mills that include WestRock in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they will be turned into 100 percent recycled paperboard for packaging. This WestRock mill is one of more than a dozen mills in the U.S. and Canada that have committed to recycling paper cups.

“At FPI, our work is ongoing with communities, recycling facilities and end markets to expand the opportunities to collect, process and recycle foodservice packaging,” says Lynn Dyer, FPI president. “Domestic markets for recovered materials are critical for successful recycling, and we congratulate Millennium Recycling and WestRock for playing a large role in getting more paper cups and paper take-out containers recycled.”