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Tennessee Senator Impressed by Kingsport Mill Conversion Progress

senator visits Kingsport Mill conversion site

United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) praised Domtar’s agility and strategy in its Kingsport Mill conversion from paper production to packaging grades when he visited the site recently during an economic development tour.

Hagerty commented on the continued growth in e-commerce — about 18 to 25 percent each year — and the progress of the $350 million Kingsport Mill conversion project to create Domtar’s first 100-percent recycled packaging facility.

“Electronic commerce has really changed the way packaging requirements have been fulfilled here in the United States, and Domtar’s realized that they’ve taken a major investment to get ahead of the curve and really move in the direction that the market is going,” Hagerty said.

“What we’re seeing here in this region is cutting edge in terms of recycling and again getting ahead of where the market is going,” he continued. “I’m very optimistic about what it means for East Tennessee and all the people that may work here.”

During his visit, Hagerty saw that the Kingsport Mill conversion will be a shining example of the circular economy at work. The project makes the most of every material — from the material used in the construction of our new buildings, to our operating model of producing new containerboard products from 100-percent recycled material (that can again be recycled at the end of its life), to using residual waste byproducts to power the facility.

The visit included a tour of the site to see how construction is progressing. One impressive point: Our team reclaimed and crushed about 32,000 tons of concrete in making room to build the new warehouse that will store bales of old corrugated containers and other kinds of mixed recycled paper.

Instead of sending that concrete to a construction waste disposal site, which would have required about 1,600 dump truck trips to haul off site — resulting in additional environmental emissions and local traffic — it was ground down and is being used as fill in the new warehouse’s construction.

“The material that made up our 100-plus year history is literally being used as the foundation for our future,” Mill Manager Troy Wilson said.

During a meeting with Wilson and Vice President of Strategic Capital Charlie Floyd, Hagerty saw how the mill will produce about 600,000 tons of 100-percent recycled premium linerboard, corrugated medium and other packaging grades.

To do so, the mill will consume about 700,000 tons of recycled boxes and paper each year (enough to fill about 1.4 Empire State Buildings) that otherwise might have ended up in a landfill. Before being used to make new containerboard products, that material will be screened and cleaned, which will also yield about 50,000 tons per year of waste byproducts that the mill will use to produce energy and electricity instead of sending it to landfills.

Leaders from nearby Eastman Chemical also attended the visit and advocated for additional recycling infrastructure in Tennesee’s Tri-Cities region, which would be mutually beneficial to both companies. Domtar needs recovered fiber for producing packaging, and Eastman would benefit from a supply stream of recycled plastics that can be repurposed for higher-value end uses.

Visit our Kingsport Mill conversion website for updates on the project, which we expect to be complete by the first quarter of 2023.