Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington recycles what is left behind

  • Monadnock Paper Mills Manager of Environmental Services Brian Maloy looks at the paper fiber content in the mill’s outdoor clariflocculator. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

  • Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington has been recycling the left over paper fibers and fillers from the paper making process by creating a product called short paper fiber that is used by farm for animal bedding, as well as to create top soil. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington has been recycling the left over paper fibers and fillers from the paper making process by creating a product called short paper fiber that is used by farm for animal bedding, as well as to create top soil. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington has been recycling the left over paper fibers and fillers from the paper making process by creating a product called short paper fiber that is used by farm for animal bedding, as well as to create top soil. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington has been recycling the left over paper fibers and fillers from the paper making process by creating a product called short paper fiber that is used by farm for animal bedding, as well as to create top soil. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington has been recycling the left over paper fibers and fillers from the paper making process by creating a product called short paper fiber that is used by farm for animal bedding, as well as to create top soil. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington has been recycling the left over paper fibers and fillers from the paper making process by creating a product called short paper fiber that is used by farm for animal bedding, as well as to create top soil. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • Monadnock Paper Mills in Bennington has been recycling the left over paper fibers and fillers from the paper making process by creating a product called short paper fiber that is used by farm for animal bedding, as well as to create top soil. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/23/2019 5:54:07 PM

In a perfect scenario, every shred of fiber and scrap of filler used in the papermaking process would end up in one of the Monadnock Paper Mills products.

But like with any production enterprise, that is not the case. Invariably, small pieces of the paper fiber pulp gets washed away as the process unfolds. Paper is made at the mill when the water and fiber mixture is spread across what is known as the wire. The wire helps shape the paper through the creation of bonds between the fibers. What doesn’t bond together, ends up in collection tanks with the large volumes of water needed to create paper.

“We’d love for all of it to be used in the creation of paper,” said Brian Maloy, manager of environmental services at Monadnock Paper Mills. “But they’re going to escape the papermaking process and end up in the water.”

Depending on the production cycle, the water – along with the fibers and fillers that didn’t stick initially – can be reused for the same products, but if they have to make a specialty paper for a specific client, they have to get rid of the water and start fresh.

That means all those fibers essentially get flushed down the drain. But it doesn’t get just thrown away. The Monadnock Paper Mills has an extensive system that is used to eventually separate those pieces of paper pulp from the water to create a product that is known as short paper fiber. It is put through an extensive collection and separation process that leads to a material they sell to a company from northern New Hampshire, Resource Management, Inc.

RMI works with paper mills in New England to recycle its byproducts and picks up the short paper fiber about once a week using a tractor-trailer. Monadnock Paper Mills is the only one they are contracted with in New Hampshire and Maloy estimates that about 30 tons of wet material will fill a trailer load. When the short paper fiber makes its way to the holding bay, its about 50 percent water. He said they produce about 500 dry tons of the material each year.

“You have to do something with that solid material,” Maloy said.

It is then either distributed directly to farms, where it is used for things like animal bedding, or RMI also produces top soil, blending the fibers with a nitrogen source, said Shelagh Connelly, president of RMI. The top soil is sold to farms that may need help to alleviate any deficiencies in the top soil.

“It gets used in the field in a way that improves the soil quality,” Connelly said. “In sandy soils, it will help retain water and is a good alternative for places that don’t have top soil.”

But before it is picked up by RMI and reused as a farm product, Monadnock Paper Mills has to get it from the water/fiber mixture used for paper to the raw material. Because not only is the fiber removed from the water, but the water is treated to meet environmental regulations.

“There’s constantly some flow of water that has the fiber and filler material in it,” Maloy said. “All paper mills use a lot of water and we go to great lengths to recycle and reuse the water and fiber as much as possible.”

Once the water and fibers are discarded from the paper making process, the mixture goes down into the wet well, where it passes through a couple coarse filters to remove any large debris and then sent to what Maloy describes as an above ground swimming pool behind the mill. Using a polymer additive, the mixture goes through what Maloy called clarification and flocculation, as the polymer causes the fibers and fillers to clump together and goes to the bottom.

“You have to get the solids to come together and settle,” Maloy said.

Four large scrapers rotate around the large holding tank to keep the material from settling. Each day the water is moved to its second treatment area and the solids are pumped back to the mill building. They go through a screw press as the final step to eliminate as much water as possible.

“It’s about how it can be recycled and repurposed in a safe manner,” Maloy said.

Maloy said initially the best they can do is 50 percent water unless they used a heat source.

“It’s really difficult to get much drier than that,” Maloy said. “And it’s a slow process.”

The goal is to reuse as much as possible during the paper making process, but since the 200-year-old Bennington facility is known as a specialty mill, they can be forced to change what they’re making a few times a day, especially if both machines are running.

Maloy estimated that on average, one million pounds of solids are diverted from landfills per year. With both paper machines running, Maloy said they use about 700,000 gallons per day, so any reusing is a huge saver in both of costs and the environment.

“They’ve done a really good job of being a green conscious company,” Connelly said.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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