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 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 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 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 subject to this upcoming rule were in compliance.
Resolute is focused on reducing the waste generated by our operations. Our approach to waste management includes identifying beneficial-use alternatives, such as land spreading, in order to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. We also pursue process efficiencies, such as optimizing fiber use, to minimize the cost of effluent treatment.
Our beneficial use programs have increased the amount of waste recycled or repurposed, reduced our environmental impact and generated cost savings. For example, we have cardboard, clean wood waste and pallets composted at certain facilities, instead of disposed of in landfill sites. In addition, a significant amount of the waste produced at our manufacturing facilities is used as fuel, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and supporting our production of green energy. In 2018, nearly 28% of the waste we produced was recovered for use in energy production.
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 2018, we redirected an average of 63% of pulp, paper and tissue mill residues toward beneficial uses.
As papermaking is a water-intensive process, we reuse water as much as possible, returning 97% to the environment. The remaining 3% is captured in the end product or evaporated during the manufacturing process. All the water we use passes through primary and secondary effluent treatment prior to being returned to the environment. Data on water discharge is aggregated, analyzed and reported to reputable organizations, such as CDP, which awarded Resolute a "B-" management level score for our water security disclosures in 2018. This score reflects the actions we have taken to evaluate and manage our potential environmental risks relating to our use of water.
Resolute is committed to managing water efficiently by establishing annual water reduction targets for each of our pulp, paper and tissue mills. In 2018, we achieved a 1% and 5% reduction in water-use intensity and absolute water withdrawal, respectively, over 2015 levels.
Treatment plant performance is carefully tracked, using parameters such as biochemical oxygen demand (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 to four 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 use 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.