The Kingsport Mill has received honorable mention in the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s 2021 Environment & Energy awards. The mill was recognized for its commitment to the circular economy as it undergoes a $350 million project to convert it from an uncoated freesheet paper mill to the company’s first 100 percent-recycled packaging facility.

The awards recognize businesses that have demonstrated outstanding achievement in environmental protection and enhancement. 

“We’re very proud of this honor,” Mill Manager Troy Wilson says. “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 — all while using residuals from the recycling process to power the facility — makes the Kingsport Mill an example of a circular economy at work.”

As part of mill’s construction, the team reclaimed and crushed about 35,000 tons of concrete in making room to build the new warehouse that will store recycled boxes and other kinds of mixed recycled paper. The mill will consume 660,000 tons of recycled boxes and paper each year to produce 100 percent-recycled premium linerboard, corrugated medium and other packaging grades.

Instead of sending that concrete to a construction waste disposal site, which would have required about 1,100 dump truck trips to haul off site and resulted in additional environmental emissions and local traffic, it is being ground down to be used as fill in the new warehouse’s construction. Simply put, the material that made up the mill’s more than 100-year history will literally become the foundation for its future.

The Kingsport Mill’s conversion is expected to be complete by the first quarter of 2023. Each year the mill will collect and reuse enough retail boxes and other mixed paper to fill about 1.4 Empire State Buildings, keeping that much material out of landfills. Before being used to make new containerboard products, the recycled paper will be screened and cleaned, yielding about 50,000 tons of additional recycling residuals each year that the mill will use to produce steam and electricity instead of sending to landfills.

“I am really proud of the sustainability we are building into every aspect of our packaging business,” Steve Henry, Domtar Packaging senior vice president says. “It is not possible without the Kingsport team’s leadership effort.”