Total Fiber Recovery of Chesapeake is building a pulping mill in Chesapeake, Va. that will bring in mixed paper and OCC bales. | Courtesy of Bulk Handling Systems

A pulping plant that will consume mixed paper and OCC is now under construction in Virginia. Meanwhile, Sonoco has started testing recycling of plastic-lined paper cups.

Joint venture in Virginia

Total Fiber Recovery of Chesapeake (TFRC) has begun construction of its $80 million recycled pulp production facility in the city of Chesapeake, Va. According to a press release, the facility will annually process up to 300,000 tons of mixed paper and OCC from the region’s MRFs. 

The plant, which is slated to come on-line in the fourth quarter of 2023, is the first of several planned by Total Fiber Recovery. The facility’s output product will be dry recycled pulp, which will be sold for further processing into paper products. 

When first announced in early 2020, before the full impacts of COVID-19 began to be felt in North America, the project was estimated to cost $49 million and was expected to start up in 2021. 

TFRC is a joint venture between Oregon-based Total Fiber Recovery and Swedish company CellMark, which will supply bales to the plant and handle marketing of the pulp, according to the release. Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), a recycling equipment provider based in Eugene, Ore. is an affiliate of Total Fiber Recovery. BHS is furnishing the equipment for the facility. 

According to the release, which came from BHS, the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority authorized the issuance of $65 million worth of green bonds for the facility. Global investment firm AllianceBernstein bought the bonds. 

The city of Chesapeake is adjacent to Norfolk, with ready port access to enable exports of pulp to overseas factories. After China’s National Sword policy took effect in 2017, eventually resulting in restrictions on shipments of fiber bales into the county, a number of companies have moved to produce recycled pulp at U.S. plants for exports to overseas cardboard factories.

According to a Resource Recycling analysis of export data, U.S. companies exported 122,000 short tons of recycled pulp during the first quarter of 2022. That was up 36% year over year. During the first quarter of 2017, before China began widespread import crackdowns, U.S. companies exported only 18,000 short tons of recycled pulp. 

In the press release, TFRC noted that it has domestic and international offtake agreements in place and that the pulp will be consumed by paper mills around the world. 

Perhaps ironically, the city of Chesapeake has itself struggled to provide recycling service for months. The city canceled its previous curbside collection contract with TFC Recycling, which had failed to pick up recyclables for weeks because of driver shortages. Residents are now taking recyclables to drop-offs sites, which are being serviced by GFL Environmental, but they’ve encountered overflowing containers, according to the The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

Sonoco takes a sip of the paper cup stream

Packaging and industrial products giant Sonoco announced it has started accepting plastic-lined paper cups, such as coffee cups, at its Hartsville, S.C. mill. 

According to a press release, the publicly traded company’s mill is accepting the cups in mixed-paper bales from MRFs. They are being recycled into paperboard for packaging. The company is conducting additional testing with the goal of expanding paper cup acceptance at all of its mills that utilize residential mixed paper.  

Poly-lined paper cups are made with desirable virgin fiber, but not all mills can efficiently separate the plastic lining from the paper. 

The move came after Sonoco began accepting paper cans, called EnviroCans, in mixed-paper bales. Produced by Sonoco, EnviroCan is made of 100% recycled fiber with a plastic coating, and it has either paper or steel ends.

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