Accelerating the transition from plastic to paper at Somerset Mill

Somerset Mill is now a leading producer of paper packaging that's a sustainable, renewable alternative to plastic.

When Sappi made a strategic investment in excess of $200 million to expand into the packaging business at our Somerset Mill in Skowhegan, Maine, we had already anticipated a strong market desire to move away from plastic and toward renewable, paper-based packaging.

Then the Covid crisis struck. While no one could have predicted the pandemic, the decision to extensively rebuild Paper Machine 1 (PM1) at Somerset had positioned Sappi to meet the sharp increase in demand for high-quality paperboard. As some competitors shuttered their mills, SNA’s diversification into packaging kept our paper machines operating.

“Innovation at Sappi is all about anticipating market needs—trying to forecast where the market need might be and then making sure we have those products in the pipeline”, says Heather Pelletier, Director of Research and Development. “The rebuild of Paper Machine 1 could not have been better timed based on the market demands for renewable, paper-based packaging.”

Sappi started the newly rebuilt PM1 in June 2018, and in just 26 months, the Somerset Mill had ramped up from producing zero tons of paperboard to over 300,000 tons a year of high-quality paperboard for folding carton, food service, and commercial printing applications. The mill generated record sales volumes and EBITDA in 2021 while achieving the full run rate.

“Our packaging looks great on the shelf and performs extremely well in downstream converting processes while being the lightest SBS in the market”, says Deece Hannigan, Vice President of Graphics, Packaging and Specialties. “This saves costs for both our customers and for Sappi.” Increased sustainability efforts have also added to the efficiency and profitability at Somerset.