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$68.8M to retool B.C. mill to produce wood-based single-use plastic replacements

Government, Paper Excellence investments putting 100 workers back to work in Crofton
From left: Geoff Dawe, Travis Gregson, Doug Routley, Premier David Eby, Brenda Bailey and Stew Gibson at the Crofton pulp mill funding announcement. (Photo by Don Bodger)

B.C.’s beleaguered forest industry received a significant boost today with the announcement of a new project designed to fill the gap created by the global move away from single-use plastics.

About 100 jobs are expected to return to the Crofton Catalyst pulp mill on Vancouver Island through a partnership involving the provincial and federal governments and mill owner Paper Excellence.

Premier David Eby headlined a press conference at the mill site Friday morning brought together government, company and workers to announce the mill is retooling to manufacture new pulp products to replace single-use plastics.

The feds are contributing $14.3 million and the province $4.5M for a combined $18.8M along with Paper Excellence’s investment of $50M to restart Crofton’s dormant C2 paper machine.

“The key to today’s announcement is partnership,” said B.C. Premier David Eby, “$90 million innovation funds like this across the province.”

One key benefit is getting people back to work so quickly after paper operations were curtailed in December due to weakening Chinese paper markets and escalating input costs.

“That will make a big difference to the people of Crofton and around the region,” said Eby. “We’re all here because we’re committed to building an economy that works for everyone in the province. We want to do what we can to support forest workers across the province.

“There’s a lot of pressure on the industry right now and people are looking for security and that’s what we are aiming to do in partnership with you.”

Paper Excellence brought forward a plan that rapidly reached a consensus from all parties.

“Not only will it put people back to work, it is an example of how investment in our forestry infrastructure can help reduce emissions, encourage innovations, reduce waste and make sure we get the most value from every tree harvested,” said said Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley.

The retooling will aid the production of water-resistant paper packaging, reduce production waste, and use fewer trees for the same volume of product while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Stew Gibson, Paper Excellence Canada’s chief operating officer, said the Paper Excellence $50M investment “is the largest investment made in Crofton in two decades.”

Paper Excellence will be working alongside Unifor Local 1132 and PPWC Local 2 at Crofton in the coming days to determine details of the restart plan, including the official restart date in January. At this time, the C3 paper machine at Crofton remains indefinitely curtailed.

Related story: Paper Excellence announces indefinite curtailment of Catalyst Crofton paper mill operations

Travis Gregson, Unifor Local 1132 president, thanked everyone for the opportunity the investments present. “I am so grateful,” he said. “This is hopefully the first step in getting another machine going.”

Geoff Dawe, PPWC Local 2 president, was appreciative of the company’s efforts in getting people back to work.

“Paper Excellence is proving it’s in it for the long haul,” he said.

Earlier this week, the B.C. government announced up to $90M in funding for the B.C. Manufacturing Jobs Fund for forestry companies that require equipment to support new product lines. Among the areas targeted are mass timber production, paper packaging, smaller-diameter tree processing and plastics-alternative manufacturing.

The Forest Enhancement Society of BC, with an investment of $50M from the Province, will also expand funding for projects and programs that increase the use of low-value or residual fibre, including trees damaged by recent wildfires and waste left over from logging that would otherwise be burned in slash piles.


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Paper Excellence chief operating officer Stew Gibson. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Don Bodger

About the Author: Don Bodger

I've been a part of the newspaper industry since 1980 when I began on a part-time basis covering sports for the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle.
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