Local industries getting greener

Published 10:49 am Friday, August 3, 2012

FRANKLIN—With its 85 jobs and $60 million investment, Tak Investments’ ST Tissue facility opening in October at Franklin’s International Paper mill will convert recycled paper into napkins and paper towels.

In addition, IP’s repurposed fluff pulp mill and Dominion Virginia Power are converting to greener processes.

Tak Investment Vice President Sahil Tak said the company gets most of its recycled paper from printers who throw away defective paper and paper companies that throw away unused or misprinted paper. A smaller portion comes from discarded newspaper and office paper.

The company tries to get the paper from within 200 miles from companies that collect and sort it.

ST Tissue plans to use roughly 110,000 tons of recycled paper a year for its process, Tak said.

“Other than the environmental benefit, which is important, waste paper is cheaper than virgin paper,” he said.

Using a renewable resource to produce products will have an environmental benefit, said Bill Hayden, public affairs specialist for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

“That’s something the department has been encouraging for years,” Hayden said. “You’re not using something new, but using something that’s already there.”

When International Paper converted its mill to produce fluff pulp, it changed its supplemental power source from coal to natural gas, something Blackwater-Nottoway Riverkeeper Jeff Turner is pleased with and hopes it’s a start to greener industries.

“We’re thrilled,” Turner said. “I hope we end up seeing a trend.”

An April 2011 announcement by Dominion Virginia Power to convert its power generation facility on General Thomas Highway to burn waste wood instead of coal would reduce emissions of mercury, Hayden said.

“Mercury is considered to be a health concern,” he said. “We’re seeing around the state more and more waterways being polluted with mercury and we believe power plants are the cause.”

Turner said a reduction in mercury levels would improve the quality of fish in local rivers, which have had a history of problems with mercury levels.

“One of the crappiest jobs I had was helping the state eight or nine years ago put up fish consumption advisory signs,” he said.

In addition to mercury, the conversion to waste wood would result in an almost complete reduction in emissions of sulfur-dioxide, which is a major component in acid rain. Emission of nitrogen oxide, a component of smog, would be reduced said Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Harris.

She added, though greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide, would be about the same as coal.

The conversion would also make the plant more efficient, operating more than 90 percent of the time compared to 20 percent of the time with coal. Harris said.

“The biomass conversions are expected to benefit our customers, the environment and the Commonwealth as a whole,” she wrote in an e-mail.

The conversion will retain the 30 jobs at the plant and add up to 100 jobs in the forestry and trucking industries.