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New tree-free premium packaging products from Monadnock Paper Mills

New tree-free premium packaging products from Monadnock Paper Mills

This edition of Sustana Fiber’s ‘Conversations with Green Champions’ is with long-time customer Monadnock Paper Mills, Inc. which recently introduced two sustainable premium packaging products: Envi PC 100 Performance Board with 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled fiber, and Hemp Envi™ Performance Board with 30% hemp fiber and 70% PCW.

Lisa Berghaus, Director of Marketing Communications; Julie Brannen, Director, Sustainability Solutions; and Al Bobst, Director, New Business Development – Monadnock’s Killer B’s – talk about the growing buzz around these tree-free products. The focus is on product development, performance and marketing in a niche where sustainability is top of mind. This continuing series explores environmental responsibility with a range of sustainability-minded organizations.

Monadnock Paper Mills, founded in 1819

  • Oldest continuously operating paper mill in the United States, in Bennington, NH, manufactures fine printing papers, technical/specialty papers, and the Envi Portfolio® of sustainable paper and packaging solutions.
  • Envi products are FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council®) certified (FSC C018866) and manufactured carbon neutral, and they use 100% renewable Green-e certified wind powered electricity, all under a third-party certified ISO 14001 Environmental Management System.
  • Over 100,000 copies of Monadnock’s Field Guide to Eco-Friendly, Efficient and Effective Print have been distributed worldwide, helping brands, marketers, printers and design students create more sustainable print and packaging projects.

What market trends led you to develop Envi® PC 100 Performance Board?

Environmentally and socially-responsible brands want to achieve higher levels of authenticity and sustainability in their packaging. This is the only coated premium 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled board now on the market – we’ve filled a packaging gap for cosmetics, jewelry, fragrances, spirits, nutraceuticals, CBD and cannabis. It is also available uncoated in smooth and vellum finishes.

Companies increasingly have strict environmental impact reduction goals, which can in part be achieved with our products. They’re seeking sustainable packaging made in an environmentally sound way and they want renewable alternatives to plastics. An objective of our environmental management system is to increase the usage of recycled and alternative fibers. It is good for our customers and good for us as we continue to develop our sustainable product portfolio.

How are customers reacting?

We can’t make it fast enough! Envi® PC 100 Performance Board is meeting the moment. The days of shipping container loads of packaging waste are coming to an end, awareness of the global impact of waste is extremely high — creating an urgent call for renewable, recycled and recyclable materials. Younger generations are making purchasing decisions based on how companies behave and what is in their products. Add in all the new legislation prohibiting single use plastics and the end result is this incredible interest in green products and the desire to keep plastics out of the environment.

Was product development an extended process? 

Since we have been making PCW recycled fiber products for over 20 years, development of the board line went pretty quickly. Back in October of 2019 we launched our Astrolite PC 100 Velvet coated text and cover grades, which was a real breakthrough because it was the only coated high performance 100% PCW paper out there. So we really benefited from all we learned during that experience.

The market has generally seen coated 100% PCW board as lacking in print and converting quality. But Envi PC 100 has the internal and surface characteristics to keep from cracking on the score and fold lines, which is so important in premium packaging.

What are the drivers for Hemp Envi™ Performance Board with 30% hemp fiber and 70% PCW?

The fast-growing cannabis and CBD product market has created tremendous interest in hemp fiber and that is the main driver. Brands are also using Hemp Envi (coated and uncoated) for the packaging of many sustainable lifestyle and luxury products.

The other driver is consumer product brands want to look at alternative fibers like plant-based fibers and agricultural waste fibers for more sustainable solutions. More people are reaching out to Monadnock for our unique Envi PC 100 products, reflecting the broad desire for more sustainable materials.

We are no strangers to this. Monadnock already uses alternative fibers like cotton (Cotton Envi Performance Board) and shredded coffee-bean bags (Kona Envi Performance Board).

Is Hemp Envi unique?

Yes. Very much so — the amount of hemp at 30% and PCW fiber at 70% is one thing, and the coated version of this fiber blend is the only one of its kind in the market. It’s an exciting place to be.

Do your new tree-free products match the print and converting performance of conventional premium products?

Yes, both Envi PC 100 and Hemp Envi Performance Boards are drop-in replacements for products containing virgin fiber. Monadnock has a long history of blending and refining a broad range of fiber types to satisfy a breadth of end-use product specifications.

To help packaging producers get the best possible performance, through rigorous product testing we developed scoring and folding guidelines. From a printing and converting standpoint, every packaging job using our new products has matched up against those using virgin fiber.

Like all Monadnock products, they are engineered for their intended use.

How does your eco-calculator support your new green products?

It shows customers how Monadnock products with PCW recycled content reduce six major environmental impacts — electricity, carbon emissions, trees, water, waste, and offsets from mill thermal energy. We recently upgraded the calculator to create high-resolution printable savings certificates. The eco-calculator has been in place for years, and the algorithms are derived from the Environmental Paper Network.

Bigger brands are incorporating our eco-calculator information into their CSR (corporate social responsibility) reports and websites, because it demonstrates the power of their informed decision to specify PCW papers. Switching from virgin wood fiber products to those like Envi® PC 100 results in significant environmental benefits.

How did Sustana Fiber contribute to these new products?

Historically, our board products have been predominantly uncoated, with less than 100% PCW content. Sustana showed us that their EnviroBright™recycled fiber has the strength characteristics required to manufacture a premium 100% PCW performance board, both uncoated and coated. Unlike other lower grade PCW fiber sources, there is no compromise in performance with EnviroBright.  Monadnock has a great partnership with Sustana, going back to the 1980s.

How does Sustana’s recycled fiber perform in your mill?

If you envision a pyramid, Sustana’s 100% PCW recycled fiber is at the top in terms of cleanliness, brightness and strength. EnviroBright’s mix of recycled PCW hardwood and softwood fiber makes for the superior printing and converting performance that premium packaging demands. 

What is your new closed-loop service with Sustana Fiber?

This is about businesses taking a holistic view of their products and collaborating with supply chain partners to streamline and close the loop on the product packaging life cycle.

Monadnock picks up waste and trimmings from its customers’ printers, converters and binderies and ships it back to Sustana, where it is re-pulped and used in the next round of 100% recycled products. This closes the loop. Our program has been running for about a year for a few customers and very sustainable brands. They want to know what happens with their waste and asked for this program. We plan to expand the program and offer the service to more customers in 2021.

Do you see Monadnock Paper Mills as a green champion?

We hope everyone does, because this mill can do what most of the industry sees as undoable.

If you work at Monadnock, making sustainable products everyone’s responsibility – how you view your job and how the job is done.  This culture starts with the all-in commitment of our Chairman and CEO, Richard Verney, a conservationist who is active in every aspect of the business.

Now we have the only coated 100% PCW recycled premium packaging product, and as much as we’d like to own this market, we hope others follow. The whole idea is to cooperatively push toward a truly sustainable economy.

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