We make sustainable packaging for people’s essential needs – from coffee cups to tissue and cereal boxes.
You’ve probably used one of our products in the last 24 hours. We’re proud to make products that are part of people’s everyday lives.
This facility is state-of-the-art and has put Kalamazoo on the map as a cutting-edge manufacturing hub. This is the largest consumer packaging plant in North America that uses exclusively recycled materials.
When you look at the products in the center section of the grocery store, around one in three of those packages were probably made right here in Kalamazoo!
Environmental sustainability is core to our operations. All our packaging traces back to trees that are sustainably harvested – a rich, renewable resource.
Paper-based packaging can be recycled into new products 5 to 7 times, helping to preserve the environment – and that inspires us every day.
There are multiple industrial sources of odor on the Northside, but the recent focus has been on Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) emissions from the mill and Kalamazoo’s Water Reclamation Plant (KWRP) next door.
Since 2019, we have been an active participant on the City of Kalamazoo’s Odor Task Force, which has been studying and addressing the potential for nuisance odors from our operations, KWRP, and other industrial sources.
We have invested more than $600 million in the past several years in a new, state-of-the-art mill and upgraded equipment and have implemented environmental controls to reduce the potential for nuisance odors near our operations.
We will continue to partner with state agencies, the city, and other experts to tackle this from every angle, and we won’t stop until it’s resolved.
Hydrogen Sulfide is a colorless gas that occurs naturally and comes from a variety of sources – from hot springs, natural gas, and crude petroleum to industrial activities and wastewater treatment plants.
Although H2S can smell bad, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not consider it a hazardous air pollutant or even regulate it.
Some states have set standards for H2S emissions, and Michigan allows up to 7.2 parts per billion (ppb) at the property line as an annual average. Our mill’s average on-site emissions in 2023 are 1.0 ppb – more than 6 times below the state’s regulatory standard and below the EPA’s reference level for continuous lifetime exposure (1.4 ppb).
We first started taking action on air quality issues with the city years ago, well before the most recent Michigan Department of Health and Human Services study.
We are investing $8 million in equipment and facility improvements to reduce the potential for H2S emissions from our operations. We have also increased our budget for wastewater treatment chemicals to $2 million per year to further reduce emissions.
We are already seeing positive results from our actions. Our data shows that since 2021, we have decreased H2S levels by as much as 80%. We are operating well within the levels set by the state of Michigan to protect public health.
This year we are taking several additional actions, including installing a permanent oxygenation system and a wet scrubber system to reduce H2S emissions, and working with the City of Kalamazoo and KWRP to reroute wastewater infrastructure to bypass a city-owned junction box that has been identified as the source of some odors.
We are committed to reducing H2S emissions from our operations to as close to zero as possible. However, we also have to meet specific regulatory standards set by the State of Michigan.
Michigan’s Air Quality Division requires H2S levels below 72 parts per billion (ppb) in a 24-hour period, or 7.2 ppb as an annual average.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) requires us to investigate any readings above 25 ppb in a 2-hour period or 50 ppb over 30 minutes.
We are in full compliance with the targets set by both the Air Quality Division and EGLE. In fact, our mill’s average on-site emissions in 2023 are 1.0 ppb – more than 6 times below the state’s regulatory standard and below the EPA’s reference level for continuous lifetime exposure (1.4 ppb).
The health department found that exposure to H2S levels in this area has NOT caused asthma or other serious health impacts – but potentially could increase the risk of nasal irritation or short-term health impacts like headaches over a lifetime of continuous exposure to emissions levels that are higher than our current annual average.
In other words, the H2S from our mill is not a significant health risk.
This is something we take extremely seriously. Our highest priority as a local manufacturer and community partner is the health and safety of our employees and neighbors. That’s why we have been closely engaged with the city and state on this issue for the past several years. Along with the city’s water reclamation plant, we have made significant progress in reducing H2S and improving air quality near our operations.
The paper-making process produces a tremendous amount of steam, or water vapor, which is what you can see rising into the air above our mill. It is not smoke.
The mill is basically a large “de-watering” or drying machine. We start with a small concentration of paper fiber mixed with a large amount of water at one end of the machine, and we remove the water as the paper fiber moves through machine.
That water removal process generates steam, which is visible above our mill, as well as very minor amounts of compounds that are permitted by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).
EnviroSuite is widely regarded as the best online monitoring technology available, and we consulted with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) prior to purchasing the systems. The agency agreed EnviroSuite was the best option.
That said, while the EnviroSuite monitors are helpful to identify potential levels of H2S, they are screening tools and are not compliance-grade monitors. The monitors tend to overestimate the H2S concentration and can sometimes produce false readings or false positives. Short, sporadic increases are often false positives, and they are easy to spot when the surrounding monitors reflect zero or a much lower number in the same timeframe.
While the monitors are useful indicators of air quality, they should not be the only tool used when evaluating odor emissions. Their data should be verified and cross-referenced against other variables, like wind speed and direction, temperature, and readings on nearby sensors. In some cases, more sensitive, portable monitoring equipment is needed to get a more accurate reading.
We also position monitors on the borders of our property – and depending on wind speed and direction, they often pick up H2S that is coming from sources outside our property.
However, even with these brief increases, our data still shows that since 2021, we have decreased H2S levels by almost 80%. The average H2S reading on our property in 2023 is down to 1.0 parts per billion (ppb). That is more than 6 times below state regulatory requirements and below the U.S. EPA’s reference level for continuous lifetime exposure.
We have received 10 citations for odor over more than a decade, but only two – one in 2019 and one in 2022 – when the State required us to take additional action after our initial investigation and corrective action.
We entered into a consent agreement with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) to resolve those two enforcement actions, effective February 1, 2023, and we are in full compliance with that agreement.
The investments we have made to address odor issues – even before the consent agreement was finalized – have already resulted in a significant decline in H2S detected on our site, and we are taking additional actions this year that we expect will reduce emissions even more.
Among other things, our future plans include the installation of a permanent oxygenation system and a scrubber system. The scrubber system will filter potential H2S emissions from 3 source areas.
Some of our community engagement efforts include:
We are active members of Kalamazoo’s Odor Task Force, which is where we meet with key stakeholders to discuss this issue and share updates on mitigation efforts.
We have created a Community Advisory Committee to better listen to community concerns and respond to stakeholder feedback. We have also been working with Eric Cunningham, a former Kalamazoo City Commissioner, as a liaison with community members and local leaders. These two efforts have helped to inform how we can best engage with the community with effectiveness and sensitivity.
Children and education are a vital cause for us. Our activities in this area include:
Trees Into Carton, Carton Into Trees (TICCIT… pronounced “ticket”), where we teach elementary students the paper making process and the importance of recycling. At the end of the session, they get to take home saplings to plant with their family.
We just completed a courtyard renovation for Hillside Middle School.
We recently ran a backpack drive benefiting the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan. We surpassed our goal of donating 150 backpacks.
In the area of workforce development, we also:
Have developed a partnership with Michigan Works and are active with the community to recruit more residents for critical jobs. We participate annually in the job fair conducted at Kalamazoo Expo Center, sponsor other local job fairs, and work with Michigan Works on recruitment events and opportunities.
Work with the City of Kalamazoo to provide ex-offenders with opportunities to re-enter the workforce.
Have partnered with Western Michigan University to enhance the school’s paper technology curriculum, which serves as a talent pipeline.
Have introduced a program called “Walk-up Wednesdays,” where we conduct walk-in interviews for any positions on our campus.