‘The successful management of the fundamental resources leads to both the profit management and environment management’ was the outcome of the IPPTA’s Seminar.
Indian Pulp and Paper Technical Association (IPPTA) held its Zonal Seminar in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on 6th and 7th August, 2015. The highlight of the 2015 Zonal Seminar was the theme “Waste, Water and Air Management with Focus on Recycled Paper”. Of course, the theme is relevant and timely as there is somewhat national and international movement going on concerning the waste management, mitigating environmental impact by the industries, and finding the most sustainable ways to produce sustainable goods. The IPPTA Zonal Seminar was one important advance towards the fulfillment of resource conservation objectives, yet there is a long way to go in fully realizing the aims of emission control and waste management.
The event was marked by almost full turnout, engrossed audience, and zealous speeches full of eagerness to find out ways out of slump the Indian paper industry is in. Apart from many insightful addresses during inaugural session, the two-day event saw many rounds of technical sessions focused around issues such as new innovative technologies for waste, water & air management; latest processes and equipment technologies for waste treatment and disposal; water management and recycling practices; new technologies in paper and pulp making requiring minimal use of water; exploring possibilities of reducing TDS/BOD/COD load in effluent; recycled fiber availability, collection, transportation, gradation and costs; energy and environmental aspects in secondary fiber processing, deinking & waste disposal, control and Automation in secondary fiber processing; regulations and policy interventions for waste management, etc.
Overcoming the Tough Phase
Mr. Neehar Aggarwal, President, IPPTA sounded concerned and optimistic both about the situation the Indian paper industry is currently in. During his presidential address, he touched upon many crucial issues explaining it in detail and exhorting his industry colleagues to find ways out of the slump by working together and in mutually beneficial ways. He sounded jubilant at the massive turnout at the event, he said, “We have got more than 250 people registered and for a zonal seminar, I think, this is sort of new benchmark indicating that people are increasingly becoming aware of the significance of this forum to discuss things and find solutions.”
Mr. Aggarwal, during his speech, came forth with myriads of underlying issues and facts which need serious attention. However, at the same time, he seemed convinced that the industry is growing and will come out strongly soon, he said, “Though the Indian paper is passing through a tough phase, the industry has still grown at about 5-6 percent year-on-year. Last year, with slightly different figures, the total consumption was 12-13 million tonnes and with the current growth rate of 5-6 percent, we would be touching 25 million tonnes by 2025. The paper industry in India has arrived; it is growing and we hope that it will become a big force in the global paper industry in times to come.
“For the Indian paper industry, there are a lot of factors which affects the paper consumption. The literacy rate and the GDP are growing every year – these are among key drivers boosting the overall paper consumption. We do hope that with the consumption level which is about 10 kg per capita (it is abysmally low compared to the global average 55 kg), we have only one way to go i.e. upward. So, let’s be optimistic about the paper industry doing well after passing through this difficult phase”
Mr. Aggarwal also asserted that the paper industry will not do well unless the industry figure out key underlying challenges and do something to eliminate them. He said, “One of the persistent challenges which we have been discussing for long is the availability and pricing of the raw material. We all know that in the last three years, price of the raw materials, especially wood, has doubled in the country. This has actually impacted the paper industry in a big way. Moreover, it’s the first time in the history of paper industry that we had to import wood from outside and that’s only because the prices have risen steeply in the country.
“Another key challenge is how we manage our energy resources. There has always been quite visible scarcity of energy and power. Though oil prices are a bit subdued; India is actually importing nearly 20 million tonnes of coal every month which is a huge volume by any proportion.
“Water is yet another challenge – the availability of water is a concern. India has almost 4 percent of world’s water reserves, yet it is a water scarce industry. Till four years ago, the annual water availability per capita in India was about 1550 cubic meter which is expected to drop down to 1350 cubic meter per capita in the next five to six years. The industry needs to take initiatives towards rain water harvesting and other techniques to conserve this very important resource.
“More importantly, we must improve our economies of scale. As an enterprise, we should try to gain the cost advantages due to our size, output, or scale of operation, with cost per unit of output decreasing. If we compare ourselves with China, the average size of paper mills in China is about 500 tonnes whereas in India there are only few machines which are greater than 100 tonnes. So as the economy of scale comes into play, there are effects on everything such as power consumption, steam consumption and fiber consumption.
“The cost of capital is quite high in India which is becoming a big deterrent to the investments in the paper industry. Today, the weighted average cost of capital in India is as high as 14-15 percent, for which we need to have at least 20 percent returns on investment to pay back our capital. However, as the cost of capital comes down, the paper industry will start looking viable in terms of investments.
“Apart from the above, environment remains an important area for almost all the industries. Environmental norms are tightening and we have seen recently that Central Pollution Control Board has come up with a notification on Ganga River Basin States wherein the environmental norms have been tightened by 70-80 percent on the existing pollution loads.
There is a possibility that the Pollution Board might come up with a notification for the rest of the country also, which means mills have to invest more in technology for reducing the environmental loads for reducing COD, BOD, water consumption, etc.”
After naming few challenges as above, Mr. Aggarwal appealed to the industry for taking prompt initiatives to address these pressing challenges, he said, “Given these challenges, what are the initiatives which we can take? The first thing to do is to have our basics right. If we calculate our cost of production, the cost of fiber constitute 50 percent of the total cost in a general mill, followed by energy which is about 20-25 percent, and the balance 25 percent is the chemical in addition to packaging and manpower. So, the biggest concern should be how to reduce our fiber consumption. We can do so by improving the filler levels by using newer technology. I still remember five or ten years ago, the filler level in the paper used to be around 10-12 percent, which has now gone up to 20 percent; and can be improved further.
“Conservation on the front of energy and water should also be focused. Myriads of new processes and technology have come up which can actually improve our usages. Once these usages are improved, I think this industry can become a lot more competitive than it is now.
Coming to the seminar’s theme “Waste, Water and Air Manacement with Focus on Recycled Paper”, Mr. Aggarwal said, “The theme encompasses the sustainability of the entire paper industry. The theme in itself is quite wide as it talks about conservation and recycling. Today, the recycled paper is almost 48-50 percent of total fiber consumption in the country. This underlines the significance of the recycled paper; that’s why the theme has been chosen with a focus on recycling.
“Though recycled fiber is the future, it comes along with its own challenges; and the biggest challenge is the collection of waste paper. The waste paper collection in India today is less than a million tonnes probably which is about 20 percent collection rate; whereas in the US and Europe it can go as high as 65-70 percent. Historically, the US and Europe have been collecting lots of waste and the countries like India and China have been the leading importers of waste.
“However, things have changing over past few years; the paper consumption in the US and Europe has been falling down reducing the collection rate drastically as a consequence. So, less waste paper would now be available for imports into India and China. The industry will therefore need to look at ways to improve the domestic waste paper collection.
Mr. Lon Rollinson, President, WestRock’s India paper operation was the keynote speaker at the IPPTA Zonal Seminar. Mr. Rollinson spoke on various relevant issues of sustainability and underlined the significance of recycling in coming times. He said, “Recycled paper industry is one of those environmentally beneficial industries in India which keeps between 20-30 lakhs tonnes of waste per year from going into landfills and we convert it into good paper and paperboard that is reused and that in turn reduces the paper industry’s overall impact on the environment. Few other industries have such positive use for its solid waste that recycled paper industry has.
“Because we are starting with the waste material, we have a unique solid waste management challenge. Plastic waste is a challenge that threatens the sustainability of the recycled industry. We have to solve this problem. In addition, we have same energy and water related challenges as our integrated mill colleagues. Our challenges are generally more severe because most of us are so much smaller than the integrated mills and environment compliance investments are much harder to make.”
Mr. Rollinson is of the opinion that learning how sustainably one can manage the plastic residuals is the biggest challenge for the waste paper based mills. He added, “Roughly 4-5 percent of our incoming waste paper bales is plastic which means our industry is dealing with 2.5 lakh tonnes per annum of material that we as an industry cannot reuse internally today. WestRock currently sends the material 650 km away to Ambuja Cement to be used as fuel where they fire their cement kilns because we don’t have 950-1100 degree Celsius combustion chamber required by the Central pollution Control Board for incineration.
“Europe’s incineration requirements have the same retention time, but Europe specifies a lower combustion temperature of 850 degree Celsius; this brings us into the temperature range of power and process boilers. We need to work with our state pollution control boards to demonstrate that this is environmentally beneficial alternative to the more expensive and transportation intensive trucking of plastic bales over 650 kms.”
Mr. Rollinson also expressed his concern over ever tightening norms of pollution control by the Central Government. He said, “The increasingly stringent regulation by the Central Government on water is a real concern for the industry in general, and in particular for thermal power plant operations. First of these concerns is the increasing pressure to completely close our water loops and operate at zero-liquid discharge. WestRock’s mill at Morai is zero-liquid discharge and it is really tough to operate. We’d had to develop a lot of in-house expertise on ETP operations and I am proud to say that our team in Morai is better skilled at aerobic and anaerobic nutrients and micro-organisms control than many of the consultants that we brought in as third party operators.
“But the biggest challenge in the zero-liquid discharge is the inability to purge soluble non-porous elements, in particular chlorides. Chlorides remain soluble across ETP process and it builds a high concentration in the backwaters; this can create corrosion problem on the paper machines over time.”
He hinted towards the need to work jointly with the state pollution boards to improve the environment. “Gujarat is unyielding on the objectives of environmental sustainability, but it is willing to listen to novel and alternative ways to address the industry’s challenges on solid, water and air fronts. We as an industry need to step up our gains in complying with regulations in our operations. The first step in improving our environment is not the stricter regulations; it’s better compliance with the regulations that we already have. We should be more honest and open in our communications with the pollutions control authorities.
“In my first few months in India, we had significant exceedances of our SPM limit and we had non-permitted discharge of process water to a nearby storm-water canal. We reported the exceedances to our regional officer and I learned that’s pretty unusual to do. But exceedances do happen, and in each case we explained what happened and what we are doing to prevent the recurrence. No punitive action was taken and we are working hard to build a reputation based on honesty and openness with Gujarat pollution Control Board.
“Pollution control boards in India need to formally recognize that there will be occasional exceedances by the industry. I hope that India will recognize the need for not just operating norms, but also for start-ups, shut-downs, and malfunctions of power boilers and process equipments. These are three periods recognized by the state agencies in addition to the transition period to get back into compliance; there are a set of regulations covering these.
“On the water side, many of the discharge parameters in the US are based on monthly basis with daily limits, not on the concentration of the effluent. This gives a lot more flexibility in managing the operations and remaining in compliance even during upsets. We have had some big upsets over there – big enough that once in our paper mill in Virginia, we had to reduce our productions for a couple of times for last three-four days at the end of a month to keep our BOD in compliance.
“The point is that we need to give our state pollution control boards the reason to trust us with the environmental limits that makes sense not just for our industry, but each of our mills. Today we all have limits that are easy to measure by the state to show them whether we are in compliance or not. But the types of limit I am talking about based on daily or monthly averages require a level of trust that does not exists today between our industry and the state pollution control boards. If we don’t do this we would be facing the same problems as did our Chinese colleagues. During the last 10 years, more than 200 paper mills have been shut down because of they are non-compliant with pollution norms.”
On concluding note, Mr. Rollinson said, “Many of us compete with each other commercially, but we are all here because there are certain issues that we must work together. IPPTA is our platform for strengthening our industry and improving India’s environment.”
Skill Development: A Must
Dr. Chandan Chatterjee, Director, the Center for Entrepreneurship Development & Adviser- Project & Technology at iNDEXTb, an Industrial Promotional arm of Govt. of Gujarat, was the chief-guest at the IPPTA Zonal Seminar. In his address, he emphasized the need for the skill development and optimal use of resources without any wastage. He also underlined the willingness of the government in supporting industries acquire relevant skills by way of various grants and provisions. He said, “To start with, I must reiterate that paper industry is full of issues which we have been discussing in various forums – issues like deforestation, air pollution, water pollution, wood pulping processes, etc.
“The issue is not only the pollution, but that the natural resources are depleting and we have failed to use them optimally. Since it’s the development based on natural resources, there is a need to adopt an approach for maximum utilization of resources.
“Today, recycling is considered important because of dearth of fresh raw material, but we have to look after other parameters such as cost, energy/water consumption, and environment, etc. as these are crucial in determining whether your production is really sustainable.
“You may not control the cost, but cost-effectiveness is always in your hand. For practically achieving the cost-effectiveness, methods and practices have to be improved and knowledge-based professional bodies are going to impart great help here.
“Even in the government policy formulation, everything is knowledge based where information and data is gathered carefully to reach on a valid conclusion. Only investment is not the solution – you can invest and grow, but the question remains whether this is a sustainable growth. The involvement of knowledge based professional bodies ensures the development to be sustainable by conducting a multifarious and all-round information collecting process, which otherwise can’t be done by manufacturers themselves. This knowledge based expertise finds out the lacunae, suggests innovative approaches, and explores novel technology to address the issue.”
Mr. Chatterjee’s speech was driven by the focus on knowledge, training and skill development. He said that knowledge, innovations and ideas trapped in college laboratory and libraries should be brought out in real life settings. He added, “We need to realize that there is enough latent knowledge and potential of innovations in our schools and colleges; these talents can be made relevant to our industries by proper training and skill development processes. We would have to support such trainings through enabling funding from the industry and the govt. Teachers should mentor students to go for innovations.
“The Gujarat Govt. has taken due cognizance of the fact and there is a provision to fund such skill development initiatives by the private enterprises. Gujarat is looking to the private sector to refurbish courses at its technical training institutes. On its part, the state government plans to offer basic infrastructure such as land and building at polytechnics, engineering colleges and industrial training institutes, and fund up to 50 percent or Rs1 crore towards the cost of training equipment and machinery. The remaining would be paid for by the concerned player that would include training the faculty.
“The industry knows what is best for itself in terms of manpower quality. So we decided to bring them into the system and invited them to create centres of excellence (CoE) in various colleges and institutes. Up to 70 percent of the cost may be borne by the Govt. 40 such CoE have been created by various industries; only paper industry is missing from the scene.
“Gujarat’s approach builds on the central government’s plan to set up centres of excellence. The state intends to hand over management of 22 industrial training institutes to the private sector for 20 years to improve their quality.”
Pollution Control: Quite Attainable
Mr. Ajay Goenka, CMD, Rainbow papers Ltd. & Founder-Chairman, IARPMA, during his address, said, “ Paper industry is passing through a tough phase; we all have to keep patience and work together. We all have to find out ways to address the prevailing challenges in a mutually agreeable manner. Skill development and environmental compliance are two issues which should be taken in all earnest by the industry and find ways to work with the govt. in a beneficial manner.”
Mr. Amritlal K. Shah, Chairman, Shah Group of Industries, was the guest of honor at the seminar. He said, “Today, in Gujarat, we are producing about 3.5 million tonnes of paper annually mainly from recycled fiber. Some more mills are coming to add another 5 lakh tonnes/annum. Paper mills are coming to Gujarat mainly because of very-very pragmatic approach of the Govt. of Gujarat, unlimited power and coal availability and the proximity to ports. These are very advantageous to the growth of recycled paper industry and that’s why Gujarat is leading the country in recycled paper production. According to my estimate, we must be producing somewhere around 50 percent of country’s recycled paper.
“We have been giving equal importance to both the quality and capacity enhancements. However, the time has come to focus on waste management and resource conservation, especially water as the govt. is insisting on not allowing the discharge into water bodies. We have to find some ways either a zero-liquid discharge or using the water in agro-activities.”
Mr. Pawan Agarwal, Vice-President, IPPTA & JMD, Naini Group of Industries conferred his vote of thanks to speakers and participants at the zonal seminar. He said, “Because I come from Ganga river basin area i.e. Uttarakhand which has been in the lime light for so many years for pollution of the holy river by in dustries, the topic of the seminar is so very apt. I think pollution control is very much achievable and we can control pollution of every kind, whether it is water, air, or any other kind of pollution. Today is the need for determination and a sense of really doing the things right way and the technology is really available.
“Moreover, I take strong objection to the word “grossly polluting” for the paper industry by the government. There are 17 types of industries in the pollution related classification of the govt. When we objected, they changed the word, from “grossly polluting” to “seriously polluting”. What change does it show? My submission is that we should be called “potentially polluting” industry with the potential towards pollution, but one can control the same. One can’t be a polluter unless one desires so. We are potentially polluting, not grossly or seriously polluting.”