The newly formed conglomerate operates 63 paper mills and 500 converting facilities worldwide. | Trainman111/Shutterstock

With a long-in-the-works merger finally official, recycling collector and major fiber end user Westrock is now one with the European packaging firm Smurfit Kappa. The conglomerate will use an estimated 15 million tons per year of recycled fiber globally.

The companies on July 5 completed their merger and this week began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker SW. The deal between Dublin, Ireland-headquartered Smurfit Kappa and Atlanta-headquartered Westrock was first announced in 2023.

Across 40 countries, the combined Smurfit Westrock company operates 63 paper mills and 500 converting facilities. Fastmarkets RISI last year reported that the merger would create “the largest containerboard and boxmaking company in the world,” with 23 million tons of mill capacity worldwide.

Westrock is a major consumer of recycled fiber in the U.S. and a big player in recycled fiber collection. It has 20 recycling plants, largely concentrated in the Midwest and the South, with two outliers in Oregon and Alaska. Smurfit brings an additional half-dozen recycling plants in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, along with many more around the world.

Both companies also operate paper mills in the U.S.: Westrock brings 14 containerboard mills and additional paper and pulp mills to the new conglomerate, while Smurfit Kappa brings two paper mills in Texas, one of which produces 100% recycled liner for containerboard.

In 2023, Westrock used 4.7 million tons of U.S.-sourced recycled fiber in its products, and Smurfit Kappa reported handling 5.8 million metric tons of recycled fiber in Europe and 1.9 million metric tons in the Americas.

Together, Smurfit Westrock anticipates it will consume 15 million tons of recycled fiber per year, the company noted in a newly published fact sheet.

Mergers are nothing new for either company. Westrock itself was formed by the merger of RockTenn and MeadWestvaco in 2015; RockTenn had been formed by Tennessee Paper Mills and Rock City Packaging decades earlier, and MeadWestvaco had come out of the merger of packaging firms Mead and Westvaco. Smurfit Kappa, meanwhile, was formed when European packaging giant Kappa Packaging acquired U.S.-based Jefferson Smurfit in 2005.

Former iterations of the new conglomerate have also done business with each other: In 2011, Westrock predecessor RocKTenn acquired Smurfit-Stone Container Corp., a U.S. containerboard producer formed when Jefferson Smurfit acquired Stone Container Corp.

More stories about fiber