Graphic Packaging hits key milestone constructing recycled paperboard mill in Waco, TX

Consumers continue to demand more sustainable product packaging, as part of a growing movement to protect the environment by reducing waste. To meet this need, Graphic Packaging International announced its plans in early 2023 to build a facility in Waco, TX dedicated to producing recycled paperboard. The mill, slated to ramp up production in 2026, supports the company’s vision of a renewable future.   

The Waco facility will leverage the industry’s most modern technology to produce recycled paperboard that will package everyday products ranging from cereal to pasta. The new paper machine is modelled after the company’s state-of the-art machine in Kalamazoo, Michigan (known as K2), which came online in 2022 and reached full capacity within 12 months.  

Mike Doss, CEO, recently visited the Waco site as the pace of construction picks up. Doss and a team of leaders signed the first piece of structural steel to be hung at the new facility – just one of 2,600 pieces of steel required. The signing served as a small nod to tradition for a facility that is laser-focused on the future. 

 “The main driver for the move is the end-use consumer,” Doss said. “They’re concerned about landfills filling up and pollution in general, and we take those concerns very seriously. We’re responding with big investments in our coated recycled paperboard mill in Kalamazoo, and now this new greenfield mill in Waco.” 

Building a greenfield facility of this caliber is a once-in-a-career opportunity. Waco was selected given its centric location in the Texas triangle. Situated within 200 miles of approximately 80% of the Texas population, the new mill will enjoy access to a strong supply of recycled fiber material from urban centers in the region. “Today, a large percentage of our paperboard waste that we cannot recycle is exported,” Doss said. “Our Waco mill is designed to enable the recycling of 100% of our own internally generated paperboard side rolls and waste.”  

 In addition, the mill is slated to improve the company’s overall environmental footprint. As Graphic Packaging optimizes its network of paper mills and packaging facilities, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to decrease by about 12%.  

 The Waco mill will feature smart technologies such as a gas turbine, to generate all the electricity needed by the mill, as well as produce steam for paperboard drying, which will improve overall efficiency and reliability. When complete, the cutting-edge facility will be able to recycle fiber from up to 15 million paper cups a day, boosting Graphic Packaging’s capacity to offer high-quality recycled paperboard to customers across the U.S. 

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