An accountant with a Washington State paper mill was the unlikely inspiration for a new process to produce recycled newsprint. Although the engineers said it couldn’t be done, Carl Simpson suggested replacing woodchips with office paper and telephone directories in order to provide the fiber content needed for newsprint.
Steilacoom’s Abitibi Consolidated is now the only paper mill in the world to use mixed paper to make newsprint, and the recycled component is as high as 100 percent. All of the paper used by Abitibi comes from three surrounding counties where it is collected by two companies, Tacoma Recycling and Rabanco. Managers at these firms are delighted to have a high-volume buyer just 40 miles away instead of in Asia where they had previously shipped their mixed paper.
Abitibi has replaced the 15 to 20 semitruck loads of woodchips it used every day with an equal amount of discarded paper. The quality of newsprint is just as good as that made from woodchips and the price is comparable or even a little cheaper, Simpson says.
Essentially the companies have developed a closed-loop system. The newspaper that shows up on the breakfast table may be made from paper that was tossed out last month; it has just been reprocessed and reprinted with new stories and photographs. Meanwhile, less wood is being used.