The true cost of waste

Envirowise presents an overview of the environmental issues facing the UK pulp and paper industry, as well as a run-down of what it can do to help.

Waste is an increasingly key issue for the pulp and paper industry today — not just in terms of environmental impact and meeting the requirements of increasingly stringent legislation, but also in the considerable impact it can have on a company’s competitiveness and profitability.

According to Paper Federation figures, the UK paper and board industry produces 163 million m3 of effluent every year. Research undertaken by Envirowise (the government programme which offers free, independent and practical advice to UK businesses to reduce waste at source and increase profits) indicates that in 2000 the UK paper and board industry used an estimated 220 million m3 of water to manufacture 6.6 million air-dried tonnes of paper and board at a cost of supply of £12.8million. Yet by reducing total water and effluent costs by 20 per cent, many mills could be saving £1 per tonne of product — a potential annual saving of £50,000 for a mill producing 50,000 tonnes per year.

Re-use and recovery

Poor control of non-fibrous materials is also costing the industry millions. While major efforts are made by paper and board mills in the UK to recover and re-use waste fibre from the papermaking process, lower priority is given to controlling the significant amounts of non-fibrous materials used by the industry each year. In 1996, the industry used some 1.1 million tonnes of non-fibrous materials at a cost of around £400million.

Improved management of non-fibrous materials offers manufacturers significant opportunities to both improve process efficiency and reduce waste. Just a one per cent reduction in the use of non-fibrous materials would save the UK paper industry £4 million per year in direct costs alone — costs that are estimated to be at least £5 per tonne of paper produced. For a mill that produces 100,000 tonnes per year of paper, that represents a cost of over £500,000 per year —how much of an increase in annual sales would they need to generate that level of additional profit?

Companies that accurately assess all their raw material inputs (including fibre, water, energy and non-fibrous materials), and outputs — both products and waste (including sludge, trade effluent, emissions to air and other residues) will be in a strong position to identify what waste is really costing them and take practical steps to improve both their environmental performance and bottom line. For example, as a result of a water monitoring and targeting programme undertaken at Inveresk plc’s Caldwells Mill in Fife, the company identified a significant leak which was estimated to be wasting over 300,000 m3 per year at a cost of approximately £140,000 per year.

With help from Envirowise many mills have gained control of their waste streams via the introduction of an Environmental Management System (EMS) as a systematic approach to managing their environmental impact – and a successful system will deliver continual improvement in environmental and business performance.

Competitive markets

In competitive markets improved environmental performance and EMS certification has provided both a competitive advantage and led to increased market share. Paper and pulp companies can obtain free specialist, industry-specific advice and services for paper and board manufacturers from Envirowise via the website (www.envirowise or free telephone helpline (0800 585794) — ranging from Waternet, an online tool for managing water consumption to confidential on-site FastTrack waste reviews from Envirowise consultants.

Envirowise also produces a wide range of publications and industry case studies, including Good Practice Guide (GG194) Increasing Profit Through Improved Materials Additions: Management Guide for Paper Mills, Good Practice Guide (GG195) Increasing Profit Through Improved Materials Additions: Technical Guide for Paper Mills , Good Practice Guide (GG111) Practical Water Management in Paper and Board Mills and Benchmarking Guide ( BG348)Reducing Water Costs In Paper And Board Mills, to mention just a few.

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