All over the world, organizations in every industry are looking for ways to operate in more sustainable ways. At the same time, our landfills continue to overflow.
But this environmental challenge has the potential to actually power sustainability. We prove it every day at Rolland, by using biogas.
Why we turned to biogas
When you think about how paper can be more environmentally friendly, most people immediately think about recycling it. But it comes down to how it’s produced, too.
To us, true sustainability means making sure our entire manufacturing process takes the environment into account, from start to finish – in turn, giving our customers more confidence that the paper they use has a minimal environmental impact. That includes using energy in a way that’s clean, sustainable and renewable, which is why we’ve used biogas since 2004.
A key part of our Sustainability Strategy is our belief in a closed-loop future, where our products are made from recycled materials and can continue to be made into new products after they’re used. This philosophy is also the heart of biogas itself, because biogas energy comes from reuse of materials: from garbage.
In our case, using biogas starts at a nearby landfill, where methane from decomposing waste is captured, preventing it from being released into the air. Then, it’s purified, compressed and transported through a dedicated eight-mile pipeline, ultimately meeting 93 per cent of our paper mill’s thermal needs.
How biogas takes us from problem to solution
Unlike traditional fossil fuels, biogas is a renewable energy source, because it comes from converting organic materials that are continually produced but would otherwise go unused because they’re sitting in a landfill.
Fossil fuels, on the other hand, come from drilling far into the ground for organic material that once used up, won’t return. Biogas is also considered carbon neutral, because the CO2 that comes from burning it as fuel has already been extracted from the environment during the organism’s lifecycle.
As Pascal Meunier, Rolland’s Environmental Manager, has put it, the choice to use biogas at Rolland was based on it being available, but also the fact that it could be harmful to the environment if it is not recovered. “When methane, the main component of biogas is emitted into the atmosphere, it’s a powerful greenhouse gas 25 times greater than CO2,” he says. “By not using biogas, greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas extraction would end up being higher.”
Renewable energy like biogas is critical in the fight against climate change. In the United States alone, nearly 40 per cent of CO2 pollution comes from fossil fuels. In short, it’s much better for preserving our environment for years to come – a passion point for us at Rolland.
“Energy management is built into our core strategy,” says Pascale Vachon, Rolland’s Corporate Vice President, EH&S and Quality, “and biogas, like use of post-consumer recycled materials, plays a key role in our manufacturing process in keeping the environmental footprint of our products as small as possible.”
Results for the environment, the economy and our customers
Indeed, using biogas allows us to curb our CO2 emissions by 70,000 tons – the equivalent of 23,400 compact cars – every single year.
It’s in part because of biogas that Rolland’s Enviro product line also has less than half of the environmental impact compared to the North American paper industry average, as our Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) reveals. Specifically, its impact on climate change is an impressive 62 per cent lower than other papers in North America, also with lower human health impacts throughout its entire life cycle, in terms of toxicity and contribution to respiratory effects.
Beyond this, the benefits of using biogas extend to the local economy: Before turning waste into biogas, the landfill operator we partner with wasn’t getting any value from the excess materials in the landfill and didn’t have the reliable revenue stream that comes from turning it into biogas.
“Biogas is an economical alternative to burning natural gases, especially for residue landfills which would have otherwise been burned,” explains Pierre-Michel Raymond, Rolland’s Mechanical Engineer and Energy Supervisor. “Plus, a utility operates the pipeline and all parties receive revenue as part of the Rolland supply chain.”
Even putting those positive social impacts aside, biogas has also proven to be good business for Rolland. Using biogas allowed us to drop our plant’s thermal costs by 35 per cent in the first year of biogas use. Clearly, using renewable energy has not only set us up for environmental success, but for long-term business success, too.
We’ve long held the belief that responsible purchasing and product use involves the entire product lifecycle. With energy management and closing the loop being core to our Sustainability Strategy, biogas has become integral to our business.
By using biogas, we’re helping our customers gain confidence that the paper they use came from a process with a limited impact on the environment. In turn, this supports a path to their own lower environmental impact and to a more sustainable, closed-loop future.