SALT LAKE CITY — In the last five years, the use of cardboard has grown by 40% due to the booming e-commerce industry. A paper production company, Crossroads Paper, is looking to change the way Utahns recycle their cardboard.
Crossroads Paper has plans to construct a recycled-paper mill in Utah, expected to open in early 2022, the company announced Wednesday afternoon at the Red Butte Garden in Salt Lake City.
The announcement of the paper mill drew support from recycling organizations and government officials, Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, and Val Hale, executive director of the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development.
"For the past several years, our recycling ecosystem has undergone a series of challenges," said Crossroads Paper CEO John Sasine. "We are here to share with you a different and hopeful view.
Once completed, it will be the only operating paper mill in the state. Currently, the closest paper mills to Utah are in New Mexico, Oregon and California.
During the planning phase, Crossroads Paper project developer Ron Sasine said the company had looked at other states to place the paper mill.
“Salt Lake and the Intermountain West is a unique place, because of the rapid economic growth, the environmentally focused population, and the expansion of manufacturing,” he said. “When those three things combine, the industrial footprint of a paper producing operation starts to get the critical mass that it needs.”
The $320 million paper mill will provide more than 110 direct jobs to Utahns and is expected to earn over $1 billion in revenue over 10 years, according to the company. The price tag includes infrastructure improvements, civil construction and water treatment facilities. The project is being financed by private investment capital.
The 80-acre plant is expected to produce 1,000 tons of packing paper a day, and the treeless operation will depend solely on 100% recycled fiber like cardboard boxes and existing waste paper. The output from the plant will be used to make new boxes for manufacturers, farmers and e-commerce companies.
"Nobody within the ring of states around Utah produces that kind of material," Ron Sasine said.
Additionally, John Sasine said the mill will reduce the constant use of gasoline to drive trucks out of Utah, reducing emissions.
"The project will cut emissions from transportation to distant paper mills, it will create hundreds of new high-paying jobs and will reduce the strain on local landfills," he said.
According to a company press release, “neighborhoods, local communities and government entities will play a critical role in the success of the operation, as they are the source for the recycled raw materials to be collected for re-processing.”
To open a paper mill, Ron Sasine said fiber, water and a good-sized population is needed.
While traditional paper mills need large quantities of water to operate, Ron Sasine said the Utah mill’s main water source will be groundwater or wells, not rivers or surface water. The location will have its own water treatment site that will clean the water before and after its use.
"It will operate with about 10% of the water used in a major mill in other states," he said.
The site of the future mill was not announced. Ron Sasine said Crossroads Paper is looking at locations in the Salt Lake Valley and adjacent areas.
Hale said he grew up in Snowflake, Arizona, where the major employer in the community was a paper mill where most of his neighbors and friends worked.
"I've had a bit of an affinity for the paper industry for a long time," Hale said.
When he learned of the operation’s benefits he realized it'd be "tremendous" for Utah's community and economy.
Lt. Governor Spencer Cox said the project had been a “long-time coming.” Before speaking at the news conference, Cox said he received a notification via his smartwatch that UPS had just delivered a package to his home.
“That's the ecosystem in which we live,” he said. “We desperately need this type of innovation.”
Lauren Frisch, owner of Box Essentials and Wasatch Container, said having a paper mill in Utah will “tremendously” reduce her supply costs.8 comments on this story
Currently, 80% of the raw material she orders to assemble boxes to her clients comes from California.
“Just the transit alone increases the overall cost of the box,” she said. “Right now it takes about three to four days to get our paper to us. With this paper mill here … we’ll have paper in our facility within 24 hours and we’ll be able to get a customer a (custom printed) box within three to four days.”
“We looked around, and in looking around we kept coming back to the reality of (Utah) being the right place for it to go," Ron Sasine said.