Seaman Paper Sustainability Initiative Minimizes Emissions and Environmental Impact

December 4, 2019

Successful businesses are defined by more than sales and market share. One prominent example involves bettering the environment and surrounding communities. From product development to manufacturing, Seaman Paper recognizes this and has engrained sustainability and efficiency into its company culture through its Soft Steps Forward Initiative. Through this program, Seaman Paper has established guidelines to closely and continuously monitor its production techniques to improve sustainability with respect to:

  • Environmental impact
  • Energy efficiency
  • Fiber use
  • Recycling waste
  • Safety improvements
  • Water use and purification

As a global leader in the paper industry, Seaman Paper understands its influence and seeks to leave a positive impact on the world, setting an example on how to create a better planet. Our commitment is evident in the success of the Initiative, which focuses on four key areas.

Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gasses (GHG), such as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4), trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, having a role in creating global climate change. A major role in minimizing environmental impact involves reducing the output of these harmful gasses without hurting production.

In 2006, Seaman Paper installed a wood fire boiler – complemented by another in 2009 – in its Gardner, Massachusetts mill. These boilers burn wood instead of coal to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by more than 2% and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) emissions by 98%. Another benefit is the biomass fuel derived from wood waste is considered carbon neutral since trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) in decades. Emissions from fossil fuels remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years. In 2005, before implementing these wood fire boilers, Seaman Paper’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuels measured at 19,625 metric tons. By 2017, this number was only 1,434 metric tons – a 92% reduction in GHG emissions.

Minimize Water Use

What may come as a surprise to many is the crucial role water plays in paper manufacturing. Seaman Paper’s mill uses about 810,000 gallons of water per day from the adjacent Otter River. With the right technology, though, water usage is significantly minimized.

Vacuum pump seal water systems allow for continuous recycling of seal water, reclaiming the heat generated by the vacuum pumps. This ensures that no potential energy goes to waste. Additionally, about 28% of mill effluent is reused in the production process after being purified by sand filters.

Seaman Paper China is one of a few companies considered to be a 0% discharged mill, meaning all water is sent from paper machines to the treatment plant, and 100% reused in the paper making process. At the Gardner, Massachusetts mill, daily water usage dropped from 357.2 million gallons in 2005 to 290.8 million in 2017.

Seaman Paper’s mill also includes its own private water treatment plant where wastewater receives the necessary primary and secondary treatment, resulting in 99% of solids and biochemical-oxygen demand being removed. So, when all is said and done, the water returns to the Otter River cleaner than when it was taken out!

Optimize Energy Use  

In addition to altering production techniques, an integral piece of Seaman’s Soft Steps Forward Initiative involves identifying inefficiencies in manufacturing equipment and adding the necessary improvements to optimize energy conservation. One example is the installation of regenerative breaks in the paper winders to leverage energy created by friction. In paper winders, these systems closely control the tension experienced when winding paper from a parent roll, subsequently generating more energy to minimize electricity usage.

AF&PA Recognizes Seaman’s Efforts

The Soft Steps Forward Initiative helped Seaman Paper earn an AF&PA Sustainability Award from the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA). One criterion for receiving the award was that Seaman Paper decreased fuel purchases and electrical dependency. This is partly because Seaman Paper produced 97% of the required steam from carbon-neutral biomass, and a backpressure turbine converted the steam to electricity.

“Seaman Paper’s achievements in advancing their energy efficiency are a testament to their perseverance and ingenuity, which is sure to lead to continuous improvement in years to come,” said AF&PA President and CEO Donna Harman.

This award exemplifies Seaman Paper’s commitment to the AF&PA Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 initiative. The program encourages AF&PA members to adopt new practices to reach common sustainability goals, working collectively toward predetermined objectives within the next two years.

Creating a lasting, positive impact on the environment is an ongoing battle that requires constant efforts to improve operations. To learn more about Seaman Paper’s environmental strategy, visit the sustainability page.


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