Port Alberni mill switches from print paper to food packaging

Paper Excellence investing $13 million to switch paper-making process for food packaging

A spool of food-grade paper at Catalyst mill in Port Alberni. | Paper Excellence

Paper Excellence is in the process of switching from primarily making newsprint and writing paper to food packaging at its Catalyst mill in Port Alberni, and is getting some help from the federal government to make the switch.

The demand for paper for things like newsprint and writing paper has been in a long-term decline, while single use plastics bans are increasing the demand for paper products for food packaging.

“Traditionally, this mill produced printing and writing grades,” the company says in a news release, “however, demand for these products has been in steady decline.

“Transitioning to food grade papers means meeting growing market demand, providing sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic serving containers, and advancing B.C.’s circular economy.”

The company has been investing $13 million to change its pulp and paper-making process to make food-grade paper. It is getting some help from the federal government, in the form of $4.5 million grant under the Forest Industry Transformation program.

“Finding alternatives to traditional, unsustainable packaging in every sector is an import part of our efforts to cut waste, reduce pollution, and protect natural habitats,” said federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

“The federal government is committed to growing the circular economy – we have already banned many harmful single use plastics – and are pleased to see the Catalyst Port Alberni mill transition to producing food grade paper that will serve to further displace single use materials.”

The new grades being developed at the paper mill will us what Paper Excellence calls “ unique pulping capabilities developed at the Catalyst Port Alberni mill that net a higher yield in fiber use.

“As a result, the mill will be able to increase the amount of food packaging materials it produces but will use less residual wood fibre to do so.”