Sustainable paper manufacturing

KLEENEX tissue manufacturer Kimberly-Clark Australia will invest $20 million in its Millicent factory in the state’s south-east as a sign of its continuing commitment to the region and its 400 workers.

The investment over 12 months will involve capacity and equipment upgrades to increase production at the site, but no jobs are expected to be lost or created as a result.

Today’s announcement comes as global parent Kimberly-Clark Corporation said it was cutting 1300 jobs out of its 58,000-strong worldwide workforce to save about $150 million by 2017.

Millicent mill manager Scott Whicker said there would be no impact on SA jobs.

The company is currently looking at what the global restructure means for the Australian business, including its other two manufacturing sites at Ingleburn and Albury in NSW.

The consumer and professional products company behind brands such as Huggies and Poise, is the largest employer in the South East region.

The mill has also been one of the biggest polluters of the neighbouring Lake Bonney, about 10 km south of Millicent, for the past 54 years.

Kimberly-Clark Australia has been working with the Environmental Protection Authority SA since 2007 to treat its waste water before it is eventually discharged into the lake.

The mill this month signed a new five-year licensing agreement with the EPA after a long-term indenture agreement with the State Government ended.

The indenture agreement allowed waste water generated by the mill to be discharged into an adjacent council drain.

This arrangement stays, but on-site clarification and aeration of the waste water has led to it meeting Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, the company said.

In recent years Kimberly-Clark Australia’s changes to its operation – including ceasing the use of a bleaching process in paper manufacturing, reducing water use and closing its Tantanoola pulp mill in 2011 – have also helped.

“We have been proactive in improving our sustainability in the lead up to the expiry of indenture agreement and I am proud of what we have achieved while being a key part of the local community,” Mr Whicker said.

Lake Bonney has been damaged by the discharge of large amounts of nutrients and contaminants from pulp and paper mills for over 70 years.

Last year, the state government deemed the lake safe for kayaking and canoeing after decades of being closed to recreational use.

Kimberly-Clark Australia’s EPA licence focuses on waste-water nutrient levels, especially around total phosphorous and nitrogen going into Lake Bonney, which is key to reducing the risk of blue green algae blooms.

The licence is consistent with the environmental values established for Lake Bonney by the EPA recently through extensive community consultation, the company said.

Over the past decade, Kimberly-Clark has spent $370 million in Millicent, including installing a $33 million co-generation facility on site to cut energy costs last year.

The 20 MW plant – one of five across its global operations – supplies 92 per cent of its energy needs or enough energy to power 36,000 average homes.

“Manufacturing in Australia continues to be challenging, but we are looking at every aspect of

our business to drive efficiencies and innovation to ensure our business remains competitive,” sustainability director Jacqueline Fegent-McGeachie said.

“This new investment indicates lots of growth potential (for Millicent).

“It will help accelerate our growth,” she said.

“While we acknowledge the challenges facing the sector, we commend Kimberly-Clark Australia for facing them head on and leading the way as a sustainable and competitive manufacturer in South Australia,” Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said.

 

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