At Resolute Forest Products, we know that our pulp, paper and wood products manufacturing processes have environmental impacts related to the consumption of resources. Our goal is to minimize those impacts – which also include air emissions, waste generation and water discharge – by going beyond legal and regulatory requirements. Our approach is based on continuous improvement and includes implementing environmental management systems (EMS) at all of our North American operating facilities.
The four key areas in which we monitor performance include:
Resolute manages its air emissions using generally accepted pollution control technologies to minimize emissions of such contaminants as sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and total particulate matter (TPM) concentrations that result primarily from the combustion of fuels. We have also adopted measures such as switching from coal and heavy oil (bunker C) to cleaner fuels such as natural gas and biomass. As of 2014, Resolute is 100% on-site coal-free, which has helped to reduce several types of emissions, including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Resolute has made significant investments to ensure we meet and even exceed regulations. More stringent boiler emission limits came to into force in the United States in January 2016 with the implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rule. At the end of 2015, all six of our U.S. mills that are subject to this upcoming rule were in compliance.
Thanks to the elimination of the use of coal and the reduced use of heavy oil at our operations, we successfully lowered our total SO2 emissions by 33% and our total NOx emissions by 9% in 2016 compared to 2013 levels. Efficiency investments and optimization projects have reduced our emission intensity as well, by 23% for SO2.
In 2016, we also significantly decreased both the intensity and our total TPM emissions, by 4% and 16% respectively, thanks to the conversion of coal boilers to natural gas and other fuel switching measures.
Reducing the waste generated by our activities is another key focus at our pulp and paper mills. Resolute’s greatest opportunity to reduce waste is rooted in using resources efficiently. Reducing the amount of fiber we lose through the pulp and paper making process means that we have more fiber available for production, minimizing the cost of effluent treatment and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. To further drive efficiency, each of our mills has a reduction target for their fiber losses.
Also, beneficial-use alternatives, which include practices such as landspreading and mine-site rehabilitation, further reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill.
Waste disposal programs implemented at our operations have more than doubled the total waste that Resolute recycles or repurposes through beneficial uses like farmland fertilization. In 2016, redirected an average of 36% of pulp and paper mill residues toward beneficial uses.
While a significant amount of water is required to make paper, our operations return more than 95% of the water withdrawn back to the environment. The water is also reused in order to maximize efficiency. The balance remains within the product or evaporates during the manufacturing process. Nonetheless, as we continuously strive to reduce our environmental impact, each mill has an annual water reduction target.
All the water used in our pulp and paper making process passes through primary and secondary effluent treatment prior to being returned to the environment. Treatment plant performance is carefully tracked, using parameters such as BOD5. Non-contact cooling water that does not mix with the process effluent may be returned without treatment, but it is monitored, sampled and reported to regulatory authorities.
It is important to our stakeholders, including the people in the communities in which we operate, as well as required by government regulations, that we use the necessary technologies to return good quality effluent to surface waters.
Key Materials Used
Our manufacturing processes require the use of chemicals to accentuate the brightness of our pulp, to treat our effluent and for pH control. As the use of chemicals relates to both environmental stewardship and worker health and safety, it is a major focus across all of our operations and considered material for both internal and external stakeholders.
Chemical suppliers are required to maintain certain health, safety and environmental standards when transporting, delivering and handling chemicals for Resolute. Risk reduction also plays a role in which chemicals are selected for use in the manufacturing process, including the form for particularly dangerous or toxic substances.
To avoid chemical incidents, guidelines have been developed to require the use of protective suits to prevent negative impacts. All new chemicals entering a mill undergo an assessment to identify any potentially negative effects for employees, risks to health and safety and potential impacts on the effluent treatment plant. Safety audits conducted every three years at each operation consider the chemicals used and mill-specific procedures, and environmental risk assessments are conducted for each new chemical that enters the mill. This includes severity of risks and thresholds at which increased management would be necessary.
Representatives from Operations and Environment work together to assess the risk of different chemicals. Some chemicals have been banned entirely due to their toxicity, although this is not required by law, while other substances have been chosen specifically to reduce risk and mitigate environmental impacts. In addition, inventories are carefully tracked to quickly identify spills and abnormal consumption. Chemical management is audited as part of our environmental risk and compliance audits, where each facility is audited every three years.
The table below lists the key chemicals we used in our operations. This data, provided by the suppliers, represents the total weight of these substances delivered to our North American pulp and paper operations over the fiscal year.