The ND Paper mill in Old Town is turning to area residents to secure more cardboard that it can turn into the pulp that it sells to customers around the world.
The pulp mill is inviting residents of Old Town, Bradley, Milford and Orono to drop off corrugated cardboard, cereal and pizza boxes at the mill property. It’s part of an effort to sustainably source the raw material the mill uses for pulp. But it’s also a response to heightened competition for the raw materials the company normally uses to make recycled pulp, said Brennan Burks, an ND Paper spokesperson.
“It is part of our new proprietary technology,” Burks said. “But, essentially, cardboard goes into, for us, the creation of recycled pulp, which is used in packaging products.”
ND Paper has offered a similar program for employees only at other locations, but this is the first time the company is trying to source raw material from area residents, Burks said.
ND Paper also has locations in Rumford, in western Maine, and Biron, Wisconsin, where the company manufactures pulp and paper. A location in Fairmont, West Virginia, solely manufactures recycled pulp. The Old Town location makes pulp both from wood and recycled materials.
“It is part of our mission to better the environment, and we’re always thinking about innovative ideas like this, to try to find alternatives to make things better,” said Daniela Delpino, the Old Town mill’s environmental engineer.
Old Town, Orono and Milford offer household recycling programs for residents, while Bradley stopped its recycling program in 2019, according to the town’s website.
The mill uses old cardboard or corrugated containers — called OCC — to create the pulp that then is used to make packaging, Burks said. But it’s become more difficult and expensive to obtain that material, he said.
“The price of OCC has actually significantly gone up in the last year due to a lot of factors like supply chain issues and COVID,” Burks said. “Everyone and their brother is also jumping on board to make boxes, and they’re doing it in a sustainable way, which is great, but it makes it a little more competitive.”
For now, the program is only open to Bradley, Milford, Old Town and Orono residents, but ND Paper might open it to businesses depending on how the residential program goes.
Residents can drop off cardboard in bins at 24 Portland St. in Old Town, where there are signs showing what they can and can’t leave there.