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Case Study: Kemsley Paper Mill Reject Processing Centre

DS Smith’s flagship paper mill innovates with an award-winning process for difficult to recycle materials.

Innovation is at the heart of what we do at DS Smith, and it ensures we are living our company Purpose: ‘Redefining Packaging for a Changing World’. By thinking differently and working closely with our customers, we have developed the right strategies that not only benefit us and our customers but also the environment too.

Leading the way is our flagship paper mill in Kemsley, Kent, which is the second biggest recovered fibre-based paper operation in Europe; with a production capacity of over 820,000 tonnes per year, it is constantly developing new opportunities to turn waste into quality usable materials once again.

Our focus on sustainability has enabled us to introduce innovative ways of closing the loop on waste materials with award-winning processes like the Reject Processing Centre (RPC). The RPC has resulted in over 24,800 tonnes of rejected material being diverted from landfill annually and has won awards since its inception including - ‘Towards Zero Waste’ award from the Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) and a ‘Sustainability Leaders Award’ from Waste and Resource Management.

The Challenge

In an ideal world, only paper fibres would enter our paper recycling operations. The reality is that other materials, such as plastic and metals, often end up mixed in with paper fibres. These materials are contaminants and levels of contamination can vary, with the least amount coming from separately collected paper and card. Although contamination still exists in the form of staples and plastic linings, for example, the quality of fibre is far greater than those that come from mixed recycling collections.

Contamination in the paper-making process can compromise the quality of the final product, and in extreme cases can cause machinery to break down. So the challenge was to find a sustainable way of dealing with contamination, whilst at the same time making sure our customers continue to receive high-quality grade paper for their packaging needs.

The Solution

Reducing and removing contamination is essential in ensuring that quality finished paper products can be made from recycled fibres. As a result, DS Smith developed and launched Kemsley Mill’s first RPC to improve the way that the mill handles contaminated material.

In the first stage of the paper-making process, contaminants are removed during pulping and screening. The RPC allows the mill to extract plastics and metals to be recycled. Plastics that can’t be recycled are mixed with sludge from the mill effluent process and sent to the on-site Waste to Energy plant to produce process steam that fuels the mill’s machinery. As part of the process to extract contaminants some fibres are also captured. Once separated out from the other materials they go back into the paper process to be recycled as good fibre.

What are the benefits?

By developing the right sustainable strategy at the front end of our paper making operation we were able to reduce contamination going through our process. This resulted in less waste and more recycling – which in turn led to revenue opportunities from the materials captured. More importantly for our customers, it underpins our commitment to producing high-quality and sustainable recycled packaging papers.

By thinking differently and having a dynamic and flexible approach to how we do things at DS Smith, this project has helped make our recycling process at Kemsley Mill much more sustainable. For customers whose material goes through our mill, their waste can breathe life again as another useful material, helping to close the loop.   

Since start up, the RPC diverted 24,800 tonnes from landfill by sending all rejected materials to be recycled. This also benefited the mill by £500,000 in sales of recyclable material extracted from the pulper. Again, DS Smith is leading the way in innovating with suppliers and customers to ensure sustainability is at the heart of everything we do on our journey to redefine packaging.

Ben Jennings, Mill Manager, Kemsley
Following and applying the principles of the waste hierarchy from the top down is integral to our closed-loop philosophy. DS Smith is passionate about identifying how to achieve the best environmental and economic solution to redefine packaging for a changing world. Through thinking differently to others, we have found ways to divert materials previously deemed too difficult to recycle and found new uses for them. What we have done with the Rejects Processing Centre here at Kemsley is a great example of that. — Ben Jennings, Mill Manager, Kemsley

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