By Jerry Schwartz
Senior Director, Energy & Environmental Policy
Water quantity and quality concerns have been steadily rising in the last several years. Arguably, the crisis in Flint, Michigan has caused the country to focus on water issues more than it ever has before. While that focus, appropriately, is on drinking water infrastructure, water use and quality issues are and will continue to be of concern in many regions and communities. In those areas, AF&PA members are taking the steps necessary to be part of the solution.
Through our Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 initiative our members have committed to reduce water use in their pulp and paper mills by 12 percent from 2005 to 2020. In 2014, they are more then half way there, having reduced water use by 6.5 percent. They are making progress toward achieving this goal by taking simple, routine steps, such as upgrading to more efficient technologies, as well as more innovative projects.
AF&PA recognizes outstanding sustainability initiatives through the annual AF&PA Sustainability Awards, which include a Leadership in Sustainability Award for Water.
In 2015, International Paper received the award for their Pensacola Mill/Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA) Partnership project. Through the partnership, International Paper’s containerboard mill in Pensacola, Florida receives treated effluent from ECUA that it uses in its industrial processes. This allowed International Paper to reduce its freshwater consumption and protect the local ecosystem, while ECUA has found a beneficial outlet for its treated effluent.
Verso Corporation won the award in 2014 for its Escanaba Mill Water Reduction Initiative. The Escanaba, Michigan mill carried out a comprehensive program of repairs and optimization, resulting in measurable water reductions throughout mill area operations. The reduced water use led to reduced costs required for the heating, pumping, and treatment of water and supports ongoing resource conservation efforts at the mill.
Projects such as these can dramatically decrease the amount of water a mill withdraws to manufacture its products, helping the industry achieve its water reduction goal.