NYSP2I leads multi-agency, sustainability initiative at Great Lakes paper manufacturers

Four-year project results in reduction of toxic chemicals and improved operational efficiencies




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A multi-agency effort led by the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) has resulted in toxic chemical reduction as well as improvements to energy and water usage and operational costs at pulp and paper mills in the New York state Great Lakes watershed.

The four-year program titled “Toxics Reduction and Sustainability in Paper Manufacturing,” is part of a vast Great Lakes Restoration Initiative led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and involving the coordinated efforts of many federal agencies. The project received $200,000 in funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), with additional costs of more than $63,000 shared by NYSP2I. NYSP2I partnered with CITEC Manufacturing & Technology Solutions, a North Country not-for-profit economic development organization headquartered in Potsdam, N.Y.

Led by NYSP2I, the initiative resulted in significant water and wastewater reduction and reuse as well as improved energy efficiencies at four pulp and paper manufacturing companies.

“P2I is proud of the results we achieved working collaboratively with multiple agencies on this project,” said Nabil Nasr, NYSP2I’s interim director as well as Rochester Institute of Technology’s associate provost and director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability. “These toxic chemical reductions and enhanced efficiencies serve as models for other pulp and paper manufacturers considering similar sustainability initiatives to improve their operations and bottom lines.”

About the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Due to the vast availability of water and trees in New York state’s North Country region, pulp and paper manufacturing companies—highly resource-intensive operations that use an enormous amount of water and wood—dominate the landscape.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to quicken efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world—the Great Lakes. Federal agencies such as the USEPA as well as state agencies like the Department of Environmental Conservation employed resources to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long-term goals.

NYSP2I called on its Direct Assistance program—a partnership with industry to find cost-effective and environmentally preferable solutions to improve production processes, enhance recycling as well as reuse and reduce the use of hazardous materials—to work with four pulp and paper manufacturing companies and implement capital equipment improvements.

At Omniafiltra LLC in Beaver Falls, N.Y., an Italian-owned company that specializes in manufacturing specialty paper for niche markets, NYSP2I identified opportunities for wastewater recovery for reuse as well as energy reductions. In addition, NYSP2I researched and identified alternatives to nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs)—compounds found in surfactants that are used in the manufacture of certain paper grades. When released into the environment, NPEs can degrade slowly and become highly toxic to aquatic organisms, according to the USEPA.

“We believe the paper industry needs to be a responsible steward of our environment,” said Scott Sauer, mill manager at Omniafiltra LLC. “While we have always taken this commitment seriously, our recent investments with NYSP2I have significantly reduced our plant’s environmental footprint.”

Omniafiltra was identified for the initiative by CITEC, an economic development business consulting firm that has a mission to strengthen the North Country region’s manufacturing and technology firms through highly tailored planning, training, implementation projects and connections to a wealth of resources around the state and nation. CITEC is part of the federal and New York State Manufacturing Extension Partnership network and a NYSP2I partner.

“We see Omniafiltra’s efforts as a promising model for other paper mills facing similar environmental challenges in the North Country and beyond,” said William P. Murray, executive director for CITEC. “Mills that can invest in environmental improvements will not only increase their competitiveness, but boost their production—all while reducing their costs.”

Eugene Park, NYSP2I’s assistant director of Technical Programs and principal investigator on the project, believes the initiative’s results prove that there are “significant opportunities for further competitive positioning of the pulp and paper industry through sustainability initiatives.”

“Our collaborative work with the pulp and paper industry further shows that it is important for the manufacturing sector to understand that it can reduce its environmental footprint by implementing cost-effective technologies and practices that will allow them to preserve the environment, produce high-quality products and give them greater competitive positioning in the marketplace,” Park said.

About the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute

The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute is a partnership between the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Rochester Institute of Technology and its Golisano Institute for Sustainability, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the State University of New York at Buffalo and Clarkson University, with a statewide reach. NYSP2I also works with the state’s 10 Regional Technology Development Centers to help disseminate data and strategy.

NYSP2I’s goal is to make the state more sustainable for workers, the public, the environment and the economy through pollution prevention. Pollution prevention is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and reusing materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.