PAR: Rumford ME Paper Mill Shifts to Recycled Packaging


Jan.2021, Rumford ME ND Paper has significantly upgraded its Rumford Division to further expand into packaging grades, and away from bleached printing and writing (P&W) grades. The upgrades are a response to the substantial long-trending changes in product demand, which have accelerated this year, and will likely put the mill in a position of long-term viability.

OCC-pulping cycle
Example of a recycled pulp fiber production line. The unbleached recycled pulp line being newly commissioned at the Rumford mill will convert OCC and post-use mixed paper to fiber for packaging-grade papers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted demand for P&W papers. Rumford’s primary products (until now), coated woodfree and coated mechanical paper grades, are expected to show 2020/2019 declines of 23.5% and 30.3% – approximately 1.4 million tons.

Rumford has operated three paper production lines (R10, R12, R15), kraft and mechanical pulping assets, and a pulp dryer (R9). The upgraded plant retains most of the same assets, with a change in the pulp production. Approximately 120 jobs have been eliminated due to the decrease in demand.

Major upgrades include:

  • Commissioning of a ~1000 metric-tons per day unbleached recycled pulp line to provide feedstock flexibility to the R12 and R15 paper machines
  • Continued operation of the R9 pulp dryer, including expansion into unbleached softwood kraft market pulp
  • Elimination of mechanical pulping operations and R15 coating and supercalender assets
  • Conversion of the R15 from P&W papers into kraft linerboard products
  • Expansion of R12 to produce unbleached recycled bag and converting papers, in addition to its current offering of bleached and unbleached papers

The newly rebuilt R10 will continue producing P&W and Specialty products, and add P&W products displaced from the R15 for existing customers. The R12 machine, with both bleached and unbleached capability, will manufacture print grades, as well as recycled and kraft papers.

Piles of baled OCC
Rumford’s shift away from P&W product to packaging grades increases demand for recycled pulp. Baled, used corrugated boxes are processed into OCC (Old Corrugated Container) pulp, which is combined with other mixed-paper pulp. Feedstocks of post-use materials is easily and cheaply sourced from nearby urban areas, such as Portland, Boston, and Montreal. No word on how the bales will be shipped in.