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Paper giant closes Texas containerboard mill

The exterior of one of International Paper’s facilities. | Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

International Paper will close its Orange, Texas containerboard mill, which uses post-consumer fiber. The decision is part of a reduction in production capacity in response to market conditions. 

The largest containerboard manufacturer in the U.S. announced on Oct. 18 it will close the mill in Orange, as well as permanently shutdown two pulping machines, one in Riegelwood, N.C. and the other in Pensacola, Fla. The pulping machines process virgin wood fiber. 

International Paper’s online containerboard marketing documents indicate the machines at the Orange facility use some amount of post-consumer fiber to produce linerboard. 

The mill in Orange, which sits east of Houston on the Louisiana state line, has the capacity to produce 800,000 tons of containerboard a year. Closing it will leave International Paper (IP) with 17 U.S. mills capable of producing about 13 million tons of containerboard annually, according to a press release

Overall, IP recycles about 1 million tons of OCC and mixed and white paper annually through its 16 recycling plants. 

The Orange mill and Riegelwood pulp machines will cease production by the end of the year, and the Pensacola machine is already idled and will not restart. The release notes that 900 employee positions are impacted by the decisions.  

IP’s chairman and CEO, Mark Sutton, stated in the release that the “actions further strengthen our competitive platform. Our optimized mill system, with its broad capabilities, gives us the flexibility to meet our customers’ needs today and in the future.” 

Memphis, Tenn.-based IP is responding to soft demand for packaging, as a result of consumers slowing their purchases. During the first quarter, IP idled capacity to make 421,000 tons of containerboard, a number that rose to 622,000 tons during the second quarter. IP’s third-quarter 2023 earnings release call is scheduled for Oct. 26. The company is not alone in reducing production capacity. Other paper product manufacturers have been responding to spending slowdowns, even as many move to open more efficient new mills in anticipation of continued longer-term growth in paper-based packaging.

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