Powerhouse Recyclers

Recycling has long helped fuel Glatfelter’s large integrated and sustainable facilities in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, and Chillicothe, Ohio.

Integrated, in this case, refers to the facilities’ ability to convert trees into wood pulp that is then used in the papermaking process, something the global supplier and leading manufacturer of specialty papers and fiber-based engineered materials has been doing for more than 150 years.

The mills’ ability to recycle the energy, water, and chemicals used in the pulping and papermaking processes makes them sustainable from a financial perspective and from an environmental perspective.

“I don’t think people have a very good feel for how much true recycling goes on in a pulp and paper operation,” says Kathy Wiedeman, director of environmental, health, and safety for the company’s Specialty Papers Business Unit.

Between facilities, sludge, wood knots, sawdust, and other wood wastes are burned in power boilers. The Chillicothe operation also has the ability to burn tire-derived fuel. The steam generated from these boilers makes electricity, which is then used to power most, and in Spring Grove’s case all, operations. These combined heat and power processes are much more energy efficient than typical electrical power plants.

Both facilities operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Wiedeman and the mill teams are always on the lookout for ways to improve energy efficiencies and raw material usage. For example, by installing variable frequency drives used in the papermaking process, they can control how much energy is drawn based on usage rather than constantly running at 100 percent.

While these investments garner immediate cost-savings, Wiedeman notes that they also demonstrate an investment in the future. “It’s not just a do it for now, it’s a do it for the long term,” she says.