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Powering a Paper Mill with Garbage

Learn how a paper manufacturer reduced GHG emissions by more than 40% – with a two-year payback period on its initiative.

A Case Study on How A Paper Mill Leveraged a Landfill

“What started as a project to reduce costs turned into a competitive advantage,” reported Bernard Hellen, Business Development Manager at Cascades, a paper manufacturer operating in Québec.

In 2004, Cascades addressed rising production costs and reduced its carbon footprint by partnering with a local landfill.

Necessity is the Mother of Innovation

Cascades had powered its equipment with natural gas. But in 2004, the already energy-intensive paper manufacturing process was put under greater pressure due to the rising costs of natural gas. Revenues for the paper manufacturing industry as a whole had been declining steadily.

Transitioning to a New Energy Source

Always open to innovative solutions, Cascades cast its sights on a landfill in the nearby town of Ste. Sophie. Working with landfill owner, Waste Management, and the local utility, Gaz Métro, Cascades custom-built a 13 kilometre pipeline to carry biogas (methane and carbon dioxide) from the landfill to the paper mill.

At minimal expense, they also retrofitted their equipment to accommodate the change from natural gas to methane.
The initiative had a two-year payback period for Cascades, produced cost savings for the company and revenue for Waste Management, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions for the paper mill by more than 40 per cent.

“Not only can we tell customers our paper is made from sustainable sources and post-consumer content – we can also tell them that we produce it with fewer greenhouse gas emissions,” explained Hellen.

This case study is an example of firms participating in the “circular economy”. Circular economy participation is an innovation practice identified as an example of Stage 3 Innovation, “Systems Building,” in NBS’s Executive Report on Innovating for Sustainability.

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