Baled OCC for recycling.

ND Paper plans to install recycled fiber pulping capacity at its plant in Old Town, Maine. | Vitaliy Kyrychuk / Shutterstock

A virgin fiber mill in Maine will install a line to process more than 70,000 tons per year of recovered fiber – primarily OCC – for packaging production.

ND Paper, the U.S. division of Chinese paper giant Nine Dragons, recently announced plans to install recycled fiber pulping capacity at its Old Town, Maine mill. The facility, which ND Paper purchased in 2018, has until now served as a 100% virgin fiber mill.

The pulping line will produce roughly 200 metric tons per day of unbleached recycled pulp. Company spokesman Brennan Burks said that will equate to between 70,000 and 75,000 tons per year.

“Using patent-pending, proprietary technology, the line will consume regionally sourced recovered paper, primarily old corrugated containers, as its primary feedstock; this incremental demand for scrap paper is anticipated to improve local recycling and ultimately reduce disposal alternatives like landfilling,” the company stated in a release.

Burks told Resource Recycling the reasoning behind the decision to install recycled fiber capacity at the mill is multifold.

“First, adding this line helps increase production capacity at the mill, thus improving our economic capabilities and market impact,” he stated. “Second, this allows us to take another step toward fiber integration for our worldwide manufacturing platform. And, yes, demand for recycled and sustainable packaging grades has and, we anticipate, will continue to rise.”

The Old Town pulp line represents Nine Dragons’ latest move into the U.S. recycling sector. After serving as a major Chinese end market for U.S. material for years, Nine Dragons entered the U.S. with its 2018 purchase of the Old Town mill along with mills in Biron, Wis., Rumford, Maine and Fairmont, W.Va.

The Fairmont mill was already a recycled pulp mill prior to the purchase, but ND Paper has since added recycling capacity at the Rumford and Biron mills, both of which were previously 100% virgin mills. With the Old Town announcement, all of ND Paper’s U.S. facilities either have plans to or are now consuming recovered fiber.

Burks said the company’s current annual recycled fiber capacity in the U.S. totals 569,000 tons per year, which includes 256,000 tons per year of recycled packaging capacity and 313,000 tons per year of recycled pulp production.

Nine Dragons has changed its U.S. recycled fiber plans a few times since entering North America. Most recently, the company announced it would shift the U.S. mills toward recycled packaging production and away from printing and writing grades, which have declined dramatically in demand. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that demand decrease.

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