By Evan Bruner, Project Associate, Sustainable Packaging Coalition

The first day of SPC Advance was wrapped up with four tours, of which I had the pleasure of joining the tour of the West Linn Paper Mill. A beautiful location, the mill rests on an island on the Willamette River and shares it’s home with the Willamette Falls, which provides a substantial portion of the mill’s electricity.

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Built in 1889, West Linn is one of the longest standing paper mill’s in the northwest operating for more than 120 years. Over that period of time, the mill has had passed through numerous owners, opening as Willamette Pulp & Paper, it was less than 25 years later that the company merged with Crown Columbia in 1914 and became Crown-Willamette Paper Company. The company merged again in 1928 with Zellerbach Paper Company to become Crown-Zellerbach, it was 20 years later under this ownership that the company gained recognition as the pioneer of the coated paper process. After one more change of ownership, it was in 1997 that the company reopened as West Linn Paper Company. Today, it runs three machines 24 hours a day producing approximately 700 tons of paper daily.

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Our tour was started off with an introduction to the papermaking process by Penny Machinski, the Environmental Manager at West Linn, who discussed the history of the mill and the company’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. Last year, the company boasted a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and 35 percent reduction in solid waste since 2005. Other impressive achievements include a 21 percent reduction in fuel use over the past decade and a 17 percent reduction in energy consumption. It is through this continuous improvement and demonstrated commitment to sustainability that West Linn continues to operate as a successful business today.

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Being my first paper mill tour, I was genuinely impressed with this facility. In addition to the company’s clear commitment to upholding strong environmental values, it was also clear there was a strong commitment to worker safety. As we toured through the mill, safety signs were abound reminding employees to be cautious when operating around very large, dangerous machines. Apparently, the machines in this facility are on the small side compared to many other paper making machines, including the 900-foot machine located at West Linn’s sister mill, Port Hawkesbury. If you’re ever in the Portland area and looking to check out a paper mill, definitely give West Linn a visit – the view alone is worth it!

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