Going for zero-waste in Allentown, PA

With innovation and ingenuity, we are making our mills eco-effective—reducing waste, emissions and maximising material and resource use at every opportunity. 

Sappi’s Allentown sheeting facility in Pennsylvania generates just one pound of waste for every ton of paper processed, well below industry standards for zero waste designations. This is an eco-effective win achieved with great planning, execution and a strong vision of how recycling can lower costs and bring in new revenue. 

Allentown can sheet and package 110,000 tons of paper per year with its three sheeters. It also operates carton and shrink wrap packaging lines and other converting support equipment. As Allentown’s Operations Manager, Audrei Steward explains, the team has taken many eco-effective actions in pursuit of their zero-waste mission.  

“We recycle and reuse soft-white broke, hard-white broke, office paper, corrugated cardboard, kraft wrap, and kraft headers”, says Steward. “All of our cores are recycled; some to be re-pulped, others for use in cat scratching posts and climbing trees. Core plugs are resold, sawdust becomes bedding for small animals, pallets and other wooden items are recycled into mulch and compressed wooden heating pellets. And much, much more.”

Landfill costs, including those incurred delivering and exchanging containers, average $90 per ton. Every pound of material sent for recycling rather than to landfill represents savings to Sappi’s bottom line. The team also identifies markets for some materials to be recycled or re-pulped, creating new revenue streams for ‘waste’ paper. 

The small amount of waste that Allentown does send to landfill include materials that as of yet can’t be recycled or resold–like food items from lunches, and some material not generated at the facility.

Meeting higher customer standards, lowering landfill costs, and identifying new uses and new revenue streams for industrial by-products is a Sappi North America hallmark. Steward says:

“Allentown most likely could qualify as a certified ‘zero waste’ facility based on this achievement.” 

She goes on. “But what is most impressive is that we didn’t need a standard to motivate us. We were already focused on reducing waste and recycling. And we continuously strive to improve and challenge ourselves to become more eco-effective across our operations.”