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AF&PA Announces Award-Winning Sustainability Projects

CONTACT: Tim Ebner
(202) 463-2436,

WASHINGTON – The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) announced its 2021 Sustainability Award winners today. These awards recognize exemplary sustainability programs and initiatives in the paper and wood products manufacturing industry.

“This year was a record-setting year. We received more submissions than ever before,” said AF&PA President and CEO Heidi Brock. “This trend underscores the value of sustainability to our industry. Our members strive to reach new limits of possibility, and these awards give us an opportunity to shine a spotlight on industry innovation.”

Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 is one of the longest standing sustainability initiatives for a U.S. manufacturing industry, established more than a decade ago. The Sustainability Award winners demonstrate the industry’s long-held commitment to improving practices that result in a brighter future and better planet.

AF&PA congratulates the following winners:

Leadership in Sustainability – Energy Efficiency/Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Georgia-Pacific: Quilted Northern Ultra Soft & Strong: Designed with Environment in Mind

Georgia-Pacific's Quilted Northern brand saves 30 percent more water and uses 30 percent less energy by using efficient manufacturing technology to squeeze more water from tissue paper before drying – a sustainable product designed with the environment in mind.

Leadership in Sustainability – Safety

WestRock: Hazard Hunter Program

WestRock’s Hazard Hunter Program engages teammates to identify and address hazards that could result in safety incidents. New and improved safety procedures are documented in traditional standard operating procedures but then, also filmed for a video library to support multi-dimensional learning. The innovative team approach has resulted in identification of hundreds of potential hazards and advances WestRock’s goal toward a 100% safe workplace.

Leadership in Sustainability – Sustainable Forest Management

Green Bay Packaging: Sustainable Forestry – Growing Success Together

Green Bay Packaging partnered with the Sustainable Forest Initiative® (SFI), American Forest Foundation and the American Tree Farm System to advance and pioneer the SFI Small Lands Group Module Certification, as the ‘first in the paper industry’. Since starting the program in 2020, Green Bay has qualified 100+ landowners representing more than 40,000 acres and this success continues to grow! This partnership adds value for family landowners to increase certified sustainable forests in the U.S., while at the same time reduces barriers, such as the cost of certification.

Leadership in Sustainability – Water

Essity: Midwest Region: Water Use Reductions & Effluent Quality Improvements

Through great initiative, creative thinking and teamwork—and without major capital investments—Essity’s Midwest team improved effluent water quality and increased water conservation. Notably, at its Menasha, Wisconsin paper mill, Essity decreased direct discharges of Phosphorus by 55 percent and Total Suspended Solids by 35 percent, and reduced its freshwater use by 20 percent. And at its nearby converting facility in Neenah, the team reduced municipal water use by 20 percent.

Leadership in Sustainability – Paper Recovery for Recycling

New-Indy Ontario: Stock Preparation Efficiency Project

New-Indy improved repulping systems at its Ontario, California mill by adding additional screening and de-trashing capacity. The additional equipment delivered higher fiber recovery yield and provided the ability to consume mixed paper in all products without sacrificing quality. In addition to raw material cost savings, New-Indy's waste stream was also reduced. The improved fiber recovery efficiency resulted in 5,500 tons less waste leaving the mill. Additionally, 10,000 tons of mixed paper with no outlet were processed by the mill and diverted from the landfill.

Leadership in Sustainability – Paper Recovery for Recycling

WestRock: Scan. Learn. Recycle. Pizza Box Recycling Program

WestRock teamed up with Domino’s Pizza and other industry partners to clear up misconceptions about pizza box recycling. The project took a three-prong approach: Study the impact on grease and cheese on recycling, assess consumer access to pizza box recycling, and launch a public educational portal to spread the word that pizza boxes are recyclable. Since an estimated 3 billion pizzas are consumed in the U.S. each year, that’s about 600,000 tons of potential fiber recovery.

Innovation in Sustainability

Georgia-Pacific: Innovations Across the Recycling Supply Chain

Georgia-Pacific introduced three innovations in 2020 to address the recyclability of products. Partnering with a major online retailer, Georgia-Pacific developed a paper-based mailer that is 100 percent curbside recyclable. The company also introduced Dixie® ecosmart® 100% Recycled Fiber Hot Cups – America’s first hot cup made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber. Georgia-Pacific is also working to increase paper cup recycling by investing in recycling infrastructure and working with municipalities to increase acceptance of paper cups to curbside recycling programs.

Innovation in Sustainability

Sonoco: EnviroSense™ PaperBlister™ Packaging

Sonoco Alloyd introduced EnviroSense PaperBlister packaging, a recyclable alternative to the traditional blister packaging, that works with existing sealing equipment lines. EnviroSense PaperBlister packages are made entirely from renewable resources and are curbside recyclable. The all-paper packaging offers a more sustainable option that is highly efficient in the delivery stream, allowing more packages per truckload and reduced shipping costs.

The 2021 AF&PA Sustainability Award winners were selected by a judging panel of sustainability experts from the Department of Energy, GreenBlue, Quad Packaging and the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology.

Visit our Sustainability Awards page for videos of these award-winning projects.

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 recyclable 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 5% of the total U.S. manufacturing GDP, manufactures about $350 billion in products annually and employs about 925,000 people. The industry meets a payroll of about $65 billion annually and is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 43 states. Visit AF&PA online at or follow us on Twitter @ForestandPaper