Minimising waste


Our focus is on minimising end-of-life waste through waste beneficiation. This not only helps to mitigate environmental impact, but also, as with reducing purchased energy usage, it brings down costs and can generate additional revenue. Sending waste to landfill adds costs, while valorising waste brings in revenue.

The least desirable method of solid waste disposal from an environmental perspective is landfill. Organic waste emits methane, a greenhouse gas with 28 times the global warming potential of CO2. Inorganic waste can leach, resulting in surface and/or groundwater pollution.

As can be seen from the pie chart below, globally most of Sappi’s solid waste generated is in the form of bark. In all regions, this is used as a fuel for onsite energy generation. In South Africa, bark is also used for composting and landfill stabilisation. As can be seen from the graph below Disposal methods of solid waste (%), the amount of solid waste combusted has increased over time, as has the quantity of waste sold.


How we valorise waste

Non-solid waste

  • Used oil is dewatered, chemically treated, refined and filtered for reuse in various grades of base oils.
  • At Alfeld and Ehingen Mills in SEU, coarse pigments from repulping internal broke are recovered from paper machine effluent and reprocessed to substitute virgin material. In another process, coating colour is also recovered from effluent and reprocessed. These partly Sappi-patented processes help to increase material efficiency.

Solid waste

  • Sludges, bark and wood are combusted for energy production in each region, while in SEU, dried sludge is also used for animal bedding by farmers.
  • At some mills, tall oil (a byproduct of the kraft pulping process) is sold to convertors as a renewable chemical raw material and used to make detergents, lubricants and paint additives.
  • In SNA, lime and boiler ash is provided to farmers as a soil enhancer through a partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, Carlton County By-Products Programme, while in SSA, lime mud is sold.
  • In SNA, inorganic ‘grit’ removed from the chemical recovery process is used for roadbed underlayment.
  • Bagasse supplied to Stanger Mil in South Africa is depithed, and the pith given to farmers as a soil enhancer.
  • Lignosulphonate, a byproduct of the pulping process, is a sound revenue stream (see Key material issues – Extracting maximum value from woodfibre in adjacent markets).

We generate very little hazardous waste, 0.13% of the total generated. This is closely controlled and carefully managed, both at our operations and the receiving facilities.

Breakdown of solid and other waist | Graph

Disposal methods of solid waste (%)

Disposal methods of solid waste (%)

Disposal methods of solid waste (%)

Disposal methods of solid waste (%)

Specific landfilled waste (t/adt)

Specific landfilled waste (t/adt)


Across the group, there was a decrease. However, in SEU there was an increase generated by operations standstill at Stockstadt Mill which led to higher use of insulation wool due to lagging replacements. There was an increase in specific landfilled waste at all three mills in SNA. Cloquet Mill increased lime/dregs landfilling due to extra kiln cleaning and to manage the size of the land application piles. The increase at Somerset Mill was due to 9% less production driven by the PM1 rebuild. In addition, paper mill losses were high during the start-up of PM1 following the rebuild. These were offset to some extent by a reduction in boiler ash due to less biomass firing at Somerset Mill. The landfilling rate at Westbrook Mill also increased due to an increase in coal- and biomass-firing for economic reasons. In SSA, there was a decrease at all mills, with boiler ash used for capping at Ngodwana and Tugela Mills and increased beneficiation at Saiccor Mill (ash, gypsum and building rubble) and Tugela Mill (timber fines).

Transforming wood waste into a community resource

Sappi’s Shared Services Centre in South Portland (Maine) has implemented a programme that collects the office’s organic solid waste onsite, adding a compost container to complement the existing single-stream recycling and landfill waste containers. By working with Garbage to Garden, a Maine-based organisation and one of the first in the USA to offer residential pickup of solid organic waste, the office has further reduced waste to landfill.

The office donates its compost to local community gardens and other non-profit organisations focused on providing fresh, healthy food options to residents of the greater Portland area. Since inception of the programme in November 2015, there has been a dramatic reduction in waste to landfill figures. As at the end of October 2017, Sappi South Portland had sent 20,900 kilograms of organic waste for composting.




Recovering paper and board in South Africa
In South Africa, recovered board and paper is a valuable resource for Sappi where it is used to supplement virgin fibre in the papermaking process. Many of our papers contain recycled fibre. Sappi Refibre has developed an outsourced business model that enables us to not only recycle large volumes of paper, but also benefit businesses and communities as part of the process.

We procure board and paper for recycling from an extensive network of agents across the country. This is sourced directly from homes, offices, wholesalers and retailers, as well as from manufacturers in both the formal- and informal sectors. Most agents offer a one stop service; collecting paper and other recyclables such as glass and certain kinds of plastic and metal.

Sappi Refibre offers a secure market for certain categories of recyclable paper and assists its agents by providing both equipment and business support.

Since 2010, through Sappi Refibre:

  • 88 businesses have been established
  • 484 jobs have been created
  • ZAR44 million has been invested in the acquisition of manufacturing for suppliers, and
  • Revenue for suppliers has amounted to more than ZAR2 billion.


About Sappi and conflict minerals

Against the backdrop of civil wars and undemocratic governance being funded by trade of natural resources, in May 2017, the European Commission introduced a regulation making the monitoring of supply chains mandatory. The regulation covers the trade of metals and ore, including tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold are covered by the regulation. This builds on an amendment to the US Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection (Dodd-Frank Act) requiring electronics companies to verify and disclose their sources of cassiterite, wolframite, and tantalum.

We have seen increased queries regarding conflict minerals and can confirm that we do not use any of the high-risk metals in our products.

Pile of Paper | Image