How often do you rely on specialty papers and engineered materials through the course of your day? The answer may surprise you. Join us as we spend a day in the life of a typical consumer.
Beep. Beep. Beep. It’s 6 a.m., and Jane slowly awakens to her alarm. She reaches for her cell phone—the battery fully charged now—and taps off the buzzer. Rising from bed, she shuffles to the kitchen, her slippers making soft thwacking noises on the laminate flooring.
After popping a coffee pod into the coffee maker, Jane grabs a package of chicken from the freezer and sets it in the refrigerator to thaw—confident that the absorbent food pad in the container will prevent juices from seeping out as it defrosts. Soon after, she hears her 6-month-old start to fuss. It’s time for the day’s first diaper change.
Phew-eee! Jane grabs two disposable baby wipes and gently cleans the chubby folds of her daughter’s bottom with the ultra-soft, cloth-like texture. A quick stop in the master bathroom reminds her to stash extra feminine hygiene products in her work satchel that sets by the door. Jane fills her travel mug with coffee, grabs her sack lunch and sticky note to-do list, and heads to work at her bakery.
Like most global consumers, Jane doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the role of paper and engineered materials in her everyday life. If pressed, she might call to mind traditional paper formats such as books, office supplies, mail, and paper packaging.
But what about the razor-thin piece of electrical paper in her cell phone battery, or the protective overlay paper that gives her laminate flooring its durability? Does she connect her coffee filter and baby wipes with the specialty paper and engineered materials industry? How about the casting paper used in the production of furniture and automobile interiors?
Chances are those thoughts never cross her mind.
That’s because companies from a broad expanse of industries choose to use “ingredients” manufactured by Glatfelter, a global producer of specialty papers and engineered materials, headquartered in York, Pennsylvania.
“We’re a part of a lot of products people use every day. People just don’t realize the materials are from Glatfelter,” says Youssef Kourimate, a market research analyst at Glatfelter’s Advanced Airlaid Materials Business Unit facility in Gatineau, Canada. “Airlaid” is a paper manufacturing process in which fibers are carried and formed to the structure of paper by air, rather than with water that is used in traditional paper-making processes.
The Canada facility—along with its counterparts in Falkenhagen, Germany, and Fort Smith, Arkansas—produces the soft, dust-free, highly absorbent materials used in baby wipes and feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products, as well as food pads and table napkins and table coverings. In 2016, the company produced 90,000 metric tons of airlaid material in North America alone, enough to make more than 1.25 billion disposable wipes, firmly establishing it as the leader in the personal care market.
Thanks to her trusted employees, the gleaming glass cases at the bakery Jane owns are filled with cupcakes artfully arranged on paper doilies and truffles lined up in mini paper soufflé cups. Pre-orders of the day’s cookie special set neatly in glassine bags that feature the bakery logo sticker.
Jane grabs the previous day’s stack of yellow receipts and heads to her office. As always, she feels a small flush of pride seeing her first business license framed on the wall as she walks in. She’s excited to see that the new staff uniform shirts with paper-backed embroidered name patches have arrived. Setting next to them on her desk is a short stack of mail. She quickly separates the bills from their windowed envelopes and files or recycles the rest. She preps her outgoing mail, placing stamps on envelopes that contain her new catering brochures.
Back up front in the bakery, Jane uses an industrial cleaning wipe to do a quick cleanup of the counters, being careful not to send crumbs flying onto the durable PVC flooring of her kitchen. Looking out at the customer area, Jane’s pleased to see a mother with two young children using the water cooler with conical drinking cups that she provides as a courtesy.
As a conscientious citizen, Jane does her best to recycle materials at home and work. She understands that paper is recycled more than any other commodity in North America, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The U.S. paper recovery rate reached 67.2 percent in 2016—a figure that has doubled since 1990. Each year, forests in the United States and Canada grow significantly more timber than what is harvested.
Paper industry sustainability efforts start well before products reach end consumers such as Jane. “There’s no way that we as a company or as an industry would still be in business today if we weren’t masters at recycling everything, including water, chemicals, and trees,” says Heath Frye, marketing director for Glatfelter’s Specialty Papers Business Unit (SPBU). “Sustainability is what this industry is founded on.”
Responsible forestry management safeguards the supply of hard and soft wood pulp used in papermaking. The same is true for “abaca,” a “super fiber,” derived from a species of banana native to the Philippines and used in tea bags, coffee filters, and electrical papers.
Taking the to-do list from her purse, Jane notes that her first stop is the home decorating store. There she peruses the rainbow assortment of paint chip charts, choosing several shades of pink that she wants to try on the walls of her bakery. Moving over to the wallcovering section, she selects the perfect pattern for her two daughters’ new bedroom. Her second stop is the print shop, where she picks up two large-format signs that will advertise her upcoming specials in the bakery’s windows.
On her way to her final destination, Jane reaches in her purse for a chocolate bar. She breaks off a square and folds it back up in the metallized paper wrapper before tucking it away. At the supercenter store, she grabs a shopping cart and heads to pick up groceries and a few party supplies, including a table covering, napkins, and wrapping paper for her mom’s upcoming 60th birthday party.
As a business owner, wife, and mother, Jane is used to doing many things at once. She’s versatile, similar to the abaca fiber Glatfelter uses in its tea and coffee filter paper. Those fibers are uniquely porous, allowing the flavor to infuse the beverage, while keeping out particles and dust.
“Glatfelter’s market-leader position in abaca filter papers continues to strengthen and expand,” says Isabel Rubio-Garcia, marketing communications manager for Glatfelter’s Composite Fibers Business Unit (CFBU) based in Gernsbach, Germany. In addition to use in consumer goods, such as filters and electrical papers, the sustainably sourced fiber is finding new use in art and fashion.
While the food and beverage markets make up the bulk of the CFBU business, the unit’s advanced technology and first-rate engineering have developed several other products.
These products include metallized paper, created when melted metal is sprayed on to paper and cooled quickly to retain its shine. This process is used for bottled beverage labels and candy wrappers.
Glassine paper—a smooth and glossy paper that is air, water, and grease resistant—is another example of an engineered product, as are wallcovering, dispersible wipes, and pasting paper for technological applications.
Exhausted at the end of her work day, Jane pulls her mother’s cookbook from the kitchen shelf and it flops open to the dog-eared page with her favorite fried chicken recipe. Pulling together the ingredients, she accidentally knocks over the bag of flour, watching as a dusting of white settles on the floor. “Looks like it’s pizza tonight,” she thinks, as she grabs a wet mop cloth and starts wiping up the mess.
With dinner complete, she pulls out a beloved set of Go Fish playing cards and settles in for a quick game with her older daughter before bedtime. Finally, Jane reaches for a chamomile tea bag, brews herself a cup of tea, and reads a few pages from the novel at her bedside.
It doesn’t get much better for Jane than reading a book in bed at the end of a long day. And her book very likely contains high-quality end-leaf and trade book publishing paper produced by market leader Glatfelter, says Frye.
And while traditional paper markets surrounding carbonless paper, envelopes, and security papers continue to shrink with the rise in digital technologies, Glatfelter has been able to nimbly pursue specialty niche markets with great success.
“George Glatfelter used to call this ability ‘to dance between the toes of giants,’” says Frye. Innovation plays a key role. “We work one-on-one with customers to tackle challenges and create solutions. If a customer needs something specific for a particular application, we can help develop it,” he adds.
Jane may never hear about Glatfelter and the many specialty paper and engineered materials it manufactures 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And that’s OK. Thanks to Glatfelter and its customers around the world, those products surround us, quietly making our lives easier, softer, stronger, safer, and more convenient.