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Plymouth K-Lime Turns Waste into Nutrients

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Plymouth K-Lime Turns Waste Into Nutrients

Farmers in eastern North Carolina are excited about a fertilizer option available from Domtar’s Plymouth Mill. Plymouth K-Lime is a potassium (periodic table symbol: K) and lime blend that’s creating healthier crops, saving farmers money and reducing the amount of waste being sent to the landfill by the mill.

It’s a win-win-win situation that has captured the attention of the industry and has earned Domtar two awards for environmental leadership.

Back to the Beginning

As part of a larger 2013 corporate initiative to repurpose manufacturing byproducts and reduce landfill waste, the Plymouth Mill began taking a closer look at its manufacturing byproducts. These waste products can sometimes be difficult to handle and reuse, but they also have individual characteristics that make them potentially beneficial.

“We knew that the residuals of our manufacturing process contained nutrients that, in the right concentrations, could be beneficial to our farming neighbors,” explained Diane Hardison, Plymouth Mill environmental manager, who noted that local farmers grow cotton, tobacco, corn, soybeans, peanuts, wheat and more. “We saw an opportunity to blend those byproducts to create a nutrient-balanced material that works well as an amendment to local soils.”

Building off of existing research that showed the benefits of using wood ash in agriculture, the Plymouth Mill and consultants from Advanced Residuals Management (ARM) experimented with different blends to balance out the extreme properties of each byproduct. They refined the mix for local use and licensed it with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Raw materials are carefully blended to create the right mix of nutrients for each field.[/caption]

They also created a sales and distribution model that saves local farmers money by selling and spreading the material, using state-of-the-art spreaders, at one-third the cost of traditional fertilizer. At the same time, the income gained from Plymouth K-Lime helps offset material reuse costs for Domtar.

“We wanted to make sure the material not only had value to Domtar but could also be of true benefit to farmers,” said Elwood Black, a technical consultant with ARM. “We routinely send off samples of the material to document its quality, and we calibrate it to spread the exact amount [of Plymouth K-Lime] needed for a particular field. We tailor our operations to each farmer’s needs.”

A Better Fertilizer for Farmers

Plymouth K-Lime has been in distribution since late 2013, and local farmers have been very pleased with the results. Chris LeFever farms corn, wheat, soybeans and rapeseed on 900 acres near the mill, and he’s been using Plymouth K-Lime for some time. It works well, and it saves him as much as $35 per acre over traditional fertilizers and soil amendments.

“I like that it’s all-natural, and the particle size is really good,” LeFever said. “It’s clean, it breaks down well, and the roots get at it right away. With commodity prices going down and so much cost going up, the savings really help.”

Environmental and Economic Impact

But perhaps the biggest benefit of Plymouth K-Lime is its environmental and economic impact on Domtar and the local community. Hardison says the Plymouth Mill produces 30,000 tons of Plymouth K-Lime each year — all of it material that would otherwise be sent to the landfill at a rate of 190 tons per day.