With Construction of K2 Project Complete, Graphic Packaging Turns Attention to Campus Improvements

Here at Graphic Packaging, we have been hard at work in Kalamazoo for nearly two years constructing a new $600 million paper machine that expands our processing capacity and ensures job security for our local employees for years to come.

Today, we are thrilled to say that construction was largely completed at the end of 2021 and our new machine, which we refer to as K2, is now producing paperboard. Once it is operating at full capacity, the new four-story machine will produce more than 1,400 tons per day of the highest-quality recycled paperboard in the industry. Here is what it looks like inside:

The new, four-story, coated recycled paperboard machine, or K2, in Kalamazoo

Phase 2: Exterior Campus Improvements

Now we are looking forward to the next phase of our project, which will be focused on renovating the exterior of all of the existing buildings at our Kalamazoo campus.

The purpose of this phase of the project is to improve the exterior looks of our existing buildings so that they match the exterior of our new K2 building, fit in better with the community, and include improved safety and weatherization elements for our employees. Once completed, the aesthetic of our buildings will be transformed from a traditional, no-frills manufacturing look to one that is far more modern and appealing to the community.

Work on our Kalamazoo beautification project, which has been approved by the city’s zoning board, is expected to begin this spring and continue into 2023. The project includes plans to overhaul all seven entrances to our buildings along North Pitcher Street.

The upgrades will include improved lighting, increased usage of bricks for facades, awnings over entrances and increased Graphic Packaging signage. We expect that the security entrance to our K1 machine will look like this architectural rendering when it is complete:

Security entrance

At our south entrance, we plan to overhaul the façade with upgraded materials, provide weatherization elements designed to reduce slips and falls, and improve the lighting. When completed, this entrance will look like this architectural rendering:

South entrance

We are also renovating the interior of our operations. Here is a look at our control center where we monitor all aspects of the production process and product quality.

Control room

Securing Local Jobs for the Future Making Sustainable Products

All of these upgrades are in addition to the construction of our K2 machine, which is a state-of-the-art machine and the industry’s newest in more than thirty years.

In 2019, Graphic Packaging made a commitment to the state of Michigan and Kalamazoo that it would invest $600 million to expand our operations and create 25 new jobs. In return, the state and the city provided an economic incentive package. Since then, we have hired 140 new employees and now employ a total of 650 in Kalamazoo when we include those who work at our carton manufacturing plant. Additionally, economic estimates indicate that every direct job at Graphic Packaging in Kalamazoo supports up to three indirect jobs in the Kalamazoo community. These jobs include people with trade skills, security contractors and hospitality workers.

What’s even more important is that this project positions Kalamazoo as a global leader in recycling for years to come. When K2 is fully operational, more than 40% of the recycled paperboard for the North American market will come from Kalamazoo.  

We are also proud of the impact this project makes on our global footprint. Based on initial estimates, K2 will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20%, reduce water usage by 300 million gallons annually and reduce purchased energy by 18% across our coated recycled board manufacturing platform in North America.  We believe our investment in Kalamazoo benefits the community, the environment, our employees and our customers.

K2 and Kalamazoo in the National Spotlight

Aerial image of the K2 building

Our investment in Kalamazoo has been generating industry attention. Trade industry publications and even the Wall Street Journal have been writing about our project because of the interest in paperboard products as a better, more environmentally friendly, and sustainable option for product packaging than plastic. The Wall Street Journal said this in its Jan. 3rd edition when it took an in-depth look our Kalamazoo plant:

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—When a new building-size machine cranks up this month, it will begin turning mountains of recycled cardboard into paperboard suitable for greener forms of packaging.

The $600-million project, the first new paperboard production line built in the U.S. in decades, represents an enormous bet by owner Graphic Packaging Holding Co. …on a future without foam cups, plastic clamshell containers or six-pack rings.

Wall Street Journal subscribers can read the full story HERE.