At Graphic Packaging, we are proud to call Kalamazoo home. That’s why we have invested more than $800 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.
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, the Kalamazoo Water Reclamation Plant (KWRP), and other potential community sources. Graphic Packaging expects to complete its $8 million commitment for odor mitigation equipment by the end of 2023. The company also increased its annual wastewater treatment operating costs to $2 million to further reduce the potential for odors.
On May 1, Graphic Packaging’s Kalamazoo mill kicked off its backpack drive benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan. The drive, which runs through June 30, collects backpacks for “littles” ages six to 16 involved in the nonprofit’s programming.
Graphic Packaging is proud to announce that the courtyard revitalization project we are sponsoring at Hillside Middle School is well underway and on target to be complete this June. On March 24, we broke ground on the project, which will update two courtyards at the school into urban greenspaces and incorporate refreshed landscaping and seating areas.
In celebration of Earth Day, Graphic Packaging hosted Trees Into Cartons, Cartons Into Trees (TICCIT… pronounced “ticket”) at Northeastern Elementary on April 27 to teach students about the importance of recycling paper and paperboard packaging.
On Thursday, October 20, Graphic Packaging contacted the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) and the City of Kalamazoo to self-report a minor incident involving a sump that overflowed paper fiber and water into the city’s stormwater system. The overflow occurred at 1810 Pitcher Street, near a section of the Kalamazoo River undergoing a Superfund cleanup unrelated to Graphic Packaging.
On September 8, 2022, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), issued a Violation Notice (VN) to Graphic Packaging in connection to air permit deviations. Graphic reached out to EGLE in early July to inform EGLE that we had certain deviations from our air permit, and that we would be submitting a proposed modification to our air permit as a result. EGLE visited the facility in late July and confirmed the deviations that we self-reported before issuing the VN. It is important to note that these issues are largely technical in nature and do not reflect any meaningful increase in emissions to the community.
In an effort to increase the line of communication with our neighbors, below is a detailed glimpse into the nature of the violations listed in the VN and the efforts we are taking in response.
With spring near, you may now notice cleanup work underway in and along the banks of the Kalamazoo River. Graphic Packaging is pleased to see this U.S. EPA-directed cleanup is being done for the community as it is part of a larger cleanup of the Kalamazoo River. Part of the work now underway is occurring near our operations. The cleanup work is not related to Graphic Packaging or our Kalamazoo operations.
The EPA is overseeing the removal of PCB-contaminated sediment within Verburg Park Pond and along the banks of the Kalamazoo River. This work is part of a larger cleanup of a section of the Kalamazoo River EPA has designated as Area 1. Cleanup activities are being conducted by Georgia-Pacific LLC and International Paper Company. We understand the cleanup activities starting in March are expected to take three years to complete.
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:
Last year, we were happy to join the City of Kalamazoo and members of the community as a steering committee was formed to develop a community benefits agreement (CBA). Although our participation in any project is voluntary, we view the CBA as a positive collaboration between the community and Graphic Packaging.
Since then, Graphic Packaging has met with the committee three times and will meet again soon as we continue to discuss possible future programs and projects that would benefit the city and the communities, where our operations are located.
Over the past 12 to 18 months, we have worked with the city of Kalamazoo on our $600 million expansion project on Pitcher Street and we have listened closely to the community’s quality-of-life concerns in the neighborhood.
Graphic Packaging, and the companies that owned the coated recycled board (CRB) mill in this community before us, have been here for well over 100 years. Our employees live and work in this community and we are proud of what we do.