In 2012, Iggesund Paperboard’s production of Invercote - a bleached high quality board designed to pack consumer goods requiring high graphic performances, which is widely used in the premium beauty industry - surpassed all previous environmental achievements at the mill. According to the Swedish board maker, despite record-high manufacturing levels, emissions of environmentally harmful substances were lower than ever before at its manufacturing site in Iggesund, Sweden.
“In a paper industry, the environmentally harmful emissions, above all to water, are usually proportional to production, that is, the more you make, the more you emit,” explains Anna Mårtensson, environmental manager at Iggesund Mill. “But 2012 was a very positive exception for us. Even though our production was the most it’s ever been, our emissions were the lowest ever – or at least, as far back as we have reliable measurement data.”
Over the years Iggesund has taken a variety of steps to reduce its emissions. Fairly early on, the mill began separating out the leftover fibres that had passed through the pulping process with the aid of mechanical purification in sedimentation basins. In the 1970s another step was taken with the construction of an aerated lagoon, where microorganisms clean the wastewater to a higher standard. In 2009 the mill added a third stage, chemical purification, in which the wastewater is treated in the same way that drinking water is treated.
“Now we can clearly see the effects of the third stage,” Mårtensson says. “The oxygen-consuming substances have been greatly reduced and nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen, which are so harmful to the marine ecosystem in the Baltic Sea, have been almost halved.”
Paper industry operations are so large scale that it often takes time to change course. Iggesund Mill is working in a strategic, targeted way to reduce its impact on the local environment. “Not one investment decision is made without first considering the environmental aspects,” Mårtensson highlights. “That is the constant question we ask every time we discuss how to develop our production. Things don’t always move as fast as our critics would like but systematic work on these issues is what gives results over time.”
Iggesund Mill has been making paper pulp on the same site for almost a hundred years and has been refining the pulp into paperboard for fifty years. Half a century ago the seabed outside the mill was dead and the environmentally harmful emissions were considerable. “Today, claims the Swedish company, it is not possible to distinguish between fish that live close to the mill and fish from unaffected reference areas. Sensitive species like seals and eagles that have been absent for many years from the mill’s vicinity are now back and increasing in numbers.”
Over the past two years Iggesund Paperboard has invested more than €340 million in switching to production based on renewable energy. At Iggesund Mill alone the company has invested more than €100,000 a day for the past ten years, always with a focus on the environmental consequences of its investments.