Notes from a Mill Tour

May 31, 2016
hazen-WebBy Cortney Hazan
Manager, Recovered Fiber

Being relatively new to the industry, I had never been to a paper mill and I was particularly interested to see one that processes recovered fiber. As Manger, Recovered Fiber at AF&PA, my job is to help support the industry in its goal to reach 70 percent paper recovery by 2020. Recently, some of my colleagues and I had the opportunity to visit Greif’s Riverville mill in Virginia. The reason for choosing this mill is it makes recycled linerboard and I would be able to see how recovered fiber is used in a paper mill.WEB 1

After starting at AF&PA, one of the first things I set out to learn were the types of paper products made by the industry and was amazed at the large variety of items and the precision of the grade definitions. The Riverville mill produces: linerboard, the smooth layer on the inside and outside of corrugated boxes; corrugating medium, the wavy middle layer of corrugated boxes; and recycled pulp, which is used to make various paper-based products.

I have come to learn that paper mills are big, complex facilities that produce high volumes of products daily. On an average day, the mill processes 1,200 tons of old corrugated containers (known as OCC), which works out to about 50 truckloads of baled OCC per day. It also processes about 550 tons of hardwood pulp (in the form of logs and woodchips) each day. Residuals from this wood are used to produce steam to run their operations, with most of the steam used in the paper machine to dry the paper they make. The hardwood pulp and recycled fiber are combined to produce corrugating medium, and recycled fiber is used to produce a linerboard that is strong and has a  smoother surface.WEB 3

AF&PA has a long term vision of zero accidents in the workplace. As the industry works toward that vision, an interim goal of reducing incidents by 25 percent by the year 2020 was established in the AF&PA Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability goals. That goal of zero is being pursued in the Greif Riverville mill, where safety is Greif’s first and foremost priority

The U.S. pulp, paper, packaging and wood products industry is one of the largest manufacturing segments in America and currently employs about 900,000 workers. The Riverville mill directly employs 280 people, and indirectly provides work for many others. Like other facilities in the industry, many of their employees will be retiring soon. To combat the loss of historical knowledge at the mill and ensure that their employees’ knowledge is in-depth and diversified, they conduct formal trainings and carry-out informal projects like job-swapping so people can gain additional experience and become comfortable in different roles.

Many thanks to Greif for hosting us!