Good to the last fibre, paper has a few good lives in it
IF you drive down the Hume Highway to Albury, possibly overtaking a truck loaded with used newspapers and magazines, you’ll come to a little town called Ettamogah ( famous for its pub), where you’ll find the Albury paper mill.
It’s one of three Norske Skog runs in Australia with a combined annual production of 900,000 tonnes of paper with sales worth about $ 1 billion.
Norske Skog’s Albury paper mill is the only one in Australia that creates newsprint. It uses new fibre as well as old newspapers and magazines to do so, producing 265,000 tonnes of newsprint a year, which is sold back to newspaper publishers.
The mill was built in 1981 and originally made paper from virgin fibre’ — radiata pine trees.
To enable recycling, the mill built a $ 135 million de- inking plant in the 1990s and has been using about 40 per cent of recovered’’ paper ever since to make new newsprint .
Water from the mill is used to irrigate an adjacent $ 10 million pine plantation, says the Publishers National Environment Bureau, and waste materials — the inks and clays extracted in the cleaning process — are given away to farmers for use as a soil conditioner.
David Hicks, performance manager at the mill, says 180,000 tonnes of used newspapers and magazines are road freighted to Albury from capital cities every year — about 500 tonnes a day. The mill exports 15,000 tonnes, and processes 165,000 tonnes. Processing eliminates about 15 per cent of the original weight.
The fibres fall apart over time. An individual paper fibre can go around seven times before it falls apart and is no good for recycling,’’ Stanton says.
When the truck you followed down the highway reaches at the mill, the old papers are put into nine- tonne batches. We remove contaminants such as staples, plastics, binders and glass, and then the paper is loaded into a pulping machine and agitated with soap and water. It’s like a big washing machine,’’ says Hicks.
The pulp, which is hot and wet, goes into these flotation cells where the soap forms bubbles that the ink sticks to and the bubbles float to the surface, leaving clean fibre.’’
These clean fibres, (‘‘ they look like porridge’’) are then thoroughly diluted — one part to 100 parts of water — and poured onto an 8.5m- wide machine bed which drains and dries it at high speed, rolling out 1540 metres of new paper a minute.
It is then cut to size and goes back on the trucks, ready for the next round.
Read all about it: Norske Skog’s newsprint mill near Albury