Thursday, October 15, 2009

Adirondack Mill Provides Paper for Al Gore’s Next Book

On November 3 a new solution-oriented climate-change book by Al Gore will be published. Our Choice will pick up where An Inconvenient Truth left off and, like everything Mr. Gore does, it will be scrutinized for its environmental integrity, right down to the paper it’s printed on.

Our Choice will use 100% recycled paper and be carbon neutral, according to a release from publisher Rodale Press. For North American editions, that paper will be produced in the Adirondack Park, at Newton Falls Fine Paper in St. Lawrence County.

“The Al Gore book is a very small percentage of our volume overall, about .5 percent of our total production,” says Scott Travers, president and vice chairman of the Newton Falls mill. “But it’s not the size of the order, if you will, it’s . . . that we were recognized by such an individual and such an effort for our environmental stewardship. The bigger issue is that the entire marketplace will recognize us for our environmental attributes.”

This is the mill’s first 100-percent recycled product, but it has been making partially recycled paper for decades, and since it was acquired and re-opened two years ago by the Canadian holding company Scotia Investments, which among other companies owns Minas Basin Pulp & Power and Scotia Recycling. The latter recovers paper all along the Eastern seaboard, Travers says. Scotia Recycling provided fiber to the Newton Falls mill for Our Choice.

“We hope that eventually all of the paper in the Newton Falls mill will have 100 percent recycled content,” he says. “It was an open, competitive bidding process for the Al Gore book. What excites people today is having a minimal impact on the environment or having an even better impact, to be able to improve the environment. If we’ve captured fiber that would have gone to the landfill, we’ve improved the environment.”

The mill is also working to have a “closed-loop” wastewater system on line by November, Travers says, eliminating the need to export waste such as sludge from the facility. One day managers also hope make steam for heat and papermaking from biomass instead of oil.

The Newton Falls story is improbable as well as inspiring. At a time when paper mills around the perimeter of the Adirondack Park were closing, this tiny one-industry hamlet rallied to recruit a new owner after the mill there was idled in 2000. The mill had a century-long history but adapted with the times and markets. Its last owner, Appleton Paper, had invested millions in upgrades. For seven years, potential buyers raised hopes and dashed them until Scotia Investments partnered with a former mill manager in 2006. The facility now employes 120 people and has been retooled. Travers says the mill will expand into recycled packaging as demand for publishing paper continues to decline.

“I applaud the people in Newton Falls and their desire to make a positive difference. The important thing is we have a dedicated workforce, we have a dedicated community, we have a dedicated holding company,” Travers says. “We’re fully committed to the success of that operation.”

Photograph of Newton Falls Fine Paper provided by Scotia Investments

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Mary Thill

Mary Thill lives in Saranac Lake and has worked alternately in journalism and Adirondack conservation for three decades.




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