Balancing Performance with Sustainability

Monadnock Paper Mills Inc. manufactures a range of sterilizable medical packaging papers to meet user needs for package strength and sterilization requirements. In recent years, as the company has embarked on numerous environmental initiatives, it has also refined its paper-making capabilities to balance material performance with sustainability, reports Lisa Berghaus, Monadnock’s manager of marketing communications.

“We are mindful of environmental considerations as well as optimal performance,” she explains. “We can move the needle on sustainability as needed, offering kraft papers as well as reinforced kraft, employing polymers to reinforce paper as needed for performance.”

When it comes to sustainability, the family-owned, ISO 14001-certified company has been in a constant state of continuous improvement, evaluating all impacts and setting goals each year, Berghaus reports. “We produce paper with minimized emissions, and we recycle 100% of our short paper fiber waste. Fifty percent of our electricity comes from hydroelectric power generated at our plant, and we also purchase Green-e certified wind power emission reductions. We can even use 100% ‘green’ power and employ carbon-neutral manufacturing, if requested.

“We also ensure that we are sourcing renewable fibers that come from suppliers third-party certified to SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) standards,” she adds. “Sustainability is not only what’s in the paper—it’s also how the paper is made.”

Water quality is also carefully monitored, reports Al Bobst, Monadnock’s product manager, medical packaging. “Our water quality is excellent. We don’t add processing chemicals to remove certain materials from water.” Adds Berghaus: “We have a waste water treatment facility on site, and it was in place before the Clean Water Act was introduced.”

Just as interest in sustainability has grown, so have demands for heightened package performance. “Sterilization processes have changed, so our paper-making processes have evolved, too,” says Berghaus. Explains Bobst: “Our papers have to be compatible with our customer’s heat-seal coatings in order to facilitate package evacuation post-sterilization. We work with converters and OEMs to meet specific requirements and specific heat-seal coatings, and we can provide papers that operate in a narrow range.”

Monadnock sources a broad range of fibers, adds Berghaus. “We can dial in fiber length to match specific application needs,” she says. “We can distribute smaller cellulose fibers to increase bonding strength during paper manufacturing, for instance.” 

“Companies may be surprised by our ability to custom engineer our products to meet specific performance requirements while optimizing sustainability,” says Bobst.

In addition to technical performance, medical packaging engineers also value consistency. “In the medical packaging business, it is more about product consistency, within and across production runs,” explains Bobst. “Some of our papers have been in use for 30 years.”

Interest in biopolymers is growing, so Monadnock is researching its options. “Traditionally, polymers have been petroleum based, but recent efforts have focused on more-sustainable polymers,” says Berghaus.

When asked whether Monadnock is sourcing recycled-content fibers, Bobst reports that there has not been an “acceptance for recycled fibers in medical packaging. And we feel that forests are well managed, providing virgin pulp for primary packaging.”

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