Containerboard Mill Net-Zero Water Use

Containerboard papermills are inherently water intensive operations, requiring significant amounts of water to
produce quality linerboard and medium. These mills are reliant on increasingly sensitive and regulated water
resources and therefore looking for solutions to water challenges associated with water sourcing. To be more water
resilient and a good steward of the communities’ water resources, Green Bay Packaging designed a circular water
system at its new 100% recycled mill in Green Bay, Wisconsin. As part of this water system, the papermaking
process utilizes reclaimed wastewater from the nearby municipal sewerage district as an alternative water source to
reduce freshwater withdrawal from the Great Lakes. The combination of reclaimed water and water recycling has
resulted in a 30% reduction in water use per ton of paper production. The onsite effluent treatment plant is equipped
with reverse osmosis for treatment of reclaimed wastewater and an anaerobic digester that removes pollutants and
produces biogas as a renewable energy source. The treatment plant ensures both product and water quality while
optimizing the mill's water cycle. Increasing the efficiency and reliability of the anaerobic digester will improve
recycled and reuse water quality, which will further reduce the need for freshwater withdrawal. With use of
reclaimed water, the mill achieved a “net-zero” water balance. Other mills can incorporate opportunities to use
alternative water source such as reclaimed water. Net-zero water is defined as more water being returned to the same
water source (of equal or better water quality) than is withdrawn and that does not diminish the water resource.
Underwriters Laboratory (UL) developed the first-in-the-world net-zero water industry procedure, piloted with the
mill's overall water balance. Treated effluent and reclaimed wastewater are alternative sources for reducing water
usage and decreasing the need for water withdrawal. 

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Author: Lisa Bauer-Lotto
Containerboard Mill Net-Zero Water Use, 2022PEERS/IBBC Confe

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