NORTHEAST WISCONSIN (NBC26) -- Paper is a multi-billion dollar industry in Northeast Wisconsin and a lot of work is needed to turn a tree into paper products that you use.
The process begins in two ways: fresh cut wood that is turned into a pulp mixture, known as virgin wood pulp, or taking recycled paper material and converting that into a recycled pulp.
The Menominee Pulp Mill of Resolute Forest Products takes in 45 trucks of waste paper a day, collected from homes, businesses and more.
These large bundles of paper products are put into a conveyor which takes it to a blender that will break the paper down into small pieces, a process that will eventually get it down to the fibers. During these steps, unwanted materials are extracted.
“We have multiple pieces of equipment at every stage to take out things like little pieces of ink, the little staples that come with the recycled fiber, to take out any background products, that ash and clay that come in with fiber,” said David Anderson.
Recycling paper does come with some waste, from 1,000 tons, only 670 to 700 tons of fiber are recovered, roughly 70% efficiency. But this waste does have a use. It’s used as a land spreading on farmers fields since it does have some nutrient value and also retains moisture in the soil.
The pulp is now in its purest form and goes into a machine that lays it out onto a flat mat. This machine will drain the water from the pulp. soon after the material goes through a series of dryers that loop through, making a mile worth of hot air passes.
At the end, the dried pulp is cut up and then packaged, ready to be sent to its customers to make a paper product. While it is an intensive process, recycling paper into pulp does have environmental benefits.
“So when people take the time to recycle paper, that’s coming through and it goes back into the marketplace making a new product. So, it saves energy, it saves water, it saves trees," said David Anderson.
One of the pulp mills customers is Badger Paper Mill Inc. in Peshtigo who take this and transform it into paper products.
The pulp is brought in and tossed into a large blender. This makes a mixture that becomes 97% water and 3% fiber and other chemicals. This blend is laid onto a paper machine known as a wire. The water is slowly being removed and then is taken through a series of dryers that turn this product into a 97% fiber chemical mixture, and 3% water.
As the sheet exits the dryers, it is now paper. Large spools at the end of the machine collect the sheets and take them to be cut into a specific size depending on what the end use is.
One line of paper is the post-consumer grade, that’s the white paper that you use on the copy machines, the other line is a specialty packaging paper composed of different wood fibers.
“That blend is made into a specialty paper depending on what that end use is. Whether it’s a twist wrap, or a cough drop wrapper, or an interleaving paper for cheese or meats. All these specific kinds of paper are designed for their end use," said Jim Koronkiewicz.
While some of the paper is now done for end use, others continue down the chain to a converting company. Print Pro in Wrightstown has been in operation since 2001 and runs 24 hours 7 days a week.
They take rolls of paper and feed it into a machine. The rolls are webbed through a series of printers that apply various colors. A dryer then cures the ink onto the paper which soon after gets spooled into a finished roll and sent out to the customer.
Some of the papers they print include toilet tissue wraps, envelopes, ice cream tub stocks, and other various packaging.
“If you think about it going to a grocery store or a gas station, everything is packaged. Some of it in paper, some of it in in film, but every single thing is packaged, and we as consumers take it for granted, we rip it off get whatever is inside and throw it away but that all has to be produced and a large majority of that is produced here in the Valley," said Tom Eiting.
And just to show how big the paper industry is, even the converting machines are made in Northeast Wisconsin.
Paper Converting Machine Company in Green Bay makes equipment that not only prints onto paper, but also converts the paper too.
“We convert it to everything from toilet paper and paper toweling to facial tissue to wet wipes, to printed subway wrappers, anything on paper that has print on," said Rodney Pennings.
The latest machines have a high-quality high definition automated process that goes through 1,200 feet of paper per minute.