Paper-based packaging producer Smurfit Kappa has completed a two-phase upgrade of its facilities at the Barranquilla Paper Mill in Colombia, including a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant (WTTP).

The $7.5 million investment saw the implementation of a WTTP with state-of-the-art anaerobic technology, which reduces water intake from the nearby Magdalena River and improves the quality of water returned to it. For example, the WWTP includes a circular self-sustaining anaerobic reactor. The facility will also generate biogas to help improve energy efficiency and reduce the need for external power sources.

Barranquilla is the most recent example and part of a wider investment programme taking place across Smurfit Kappa paper mills in Colombia. Other investments include upgrades to facilities at the Barbosa and Cali paper plants.

The WTTP investment at Barranquilla Paper Mill is specifically noted as a further example of Smurfit Kappa’s ongoing commitment to good water stewardship through using water sustainably and supporting natural water ecosystems. Since 2018, Smurfit Kappa has been a signatory to the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate which implements strategies and policies to address the growing crisis in water and sanitation in many parts of the world.

The upgraded facilities allow the Barranquilla site, which produces containerboard from 100% recycled materials, to contribute towards Smurfit Kappa’s sustainability targets that were expanded in January 2021. These include water quality targets to further reduce water intake and improve water intensity and usage. Specifically, this includes targets to reduce the chemical oxygen demand (COD) of the water by 60% by 2025 and to reduce water intensity by 1% annually. It is estimated that the COD at the plant will reduce by 80% as a direct result of this investment.

Smurfit Kappa Colombia CEO Alvaro Jose Henao Ramos said, ‘For many years, our operations have been based on a circular economy model in which we seek to maximise resource efficiency and minimise waste. This investment takes us to a higher level of efficiency and excellence in how we process water and is consistent with our goal of being a strategic ally to businesses in the Caribbean region, through our sustainable packaging solutions and environmentally friendly processes.’

Juan G. Castaneda, CEO at Smurfit Kappa for the Americas, added, ‘Without a doubt, these projects are one more step in the right direction in our environmental commitment to water and energy efficiency. For Smurfit Kappa, water is a fundamental resource that must be preserved, and we focus our efforts on improving the quality of the water we discharge and reducing our use of the resource, going beyond what is required by law.

‘Currently, more than 90% of the water we use is returned to nature in good condition, and the remaining water is transformed into steam or linked to the product during the production process.’