Graphic Packaging hits key milestone constructing recycled paperboard facility in Waco, Texas

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New site investment will propel consumer packaging made from recycled content in support of healthier planet

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, Texas dedicated to producing recycled paperboard, a responsible packaging alternative. The plant, 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 modeled 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. 

The major investments Graphic Packaging has made to advance recycled paperboard are deepening the company’s advantage as the global leader in sustainable consumer packaging. 

Graphic Packaging CEO Mike Doss 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.”

Better Construction, Better Environment

In the packaging industry, 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 percent of the Texas population, the new mill will enjoy access to a strong supply of recycled fiber material from urban centers in the region. Graphic Packaging specializes in turning fiber into coated recycled board (CRB). In 2022 alone, the company repurposed about 1.2 million tons of packaging waste and scrap paper into CRB. 

“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 percent of our own internally generated paperboard side rolls and waste.” 

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

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, dramatically boosting Graphic Packaging’s capacity to offer high-quality recycled paperboard to customers across the U.S. 

“I know this facility is going to be a great part of the Waco community,” Doss said. “It’ll help support that shift in society towards a circular economy – and that’s really exciting for us.” 

Source: Graphic Packaging