Paper Tiger: Recycled paperboard manufacturer catches the rain

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Newman and Company’s recycled paperboard plant is expanding its rainwater collection program to divert 4.8 million gallons of rainwater run-off for use in its manufacturing process.Back in 1919, when “green” was just a color, Wissinoming-based Newman and Company established itself as one of the first recycled paperboard mills on the Eastern Seaboard. Today, the family-owned company produces more than 65,000 tons of paperboard per year, all made from 100 percent recycled materials. “We harvest what we like to call the ‘urban forest,’” says Michael Ferman, Newman’s vice president of operations. In addition to the recycled materials it receives from brokers and many of its customers, Newman harvests waste paper directly from municipalities, businesses and other organizations in the area. And in the last year, the company has begun to reuse one more recyclable material — rain. 

Several years ago, faced with increasing costs of municipal water supplies, Ferman and other Newman executives teamed up with AKRF, an environmental design and engineering group, to research the viability of collecting stormwater runoff for use in its paperboard production. After a series of tests, they found that runoff water from the roofs of Newman’s 40-plus-acre campus could be used to offset their annual water demand by an estimated 4.8 million gallons. 

In October 2012, AKRF and Newman implemented phase one of their rainwater-harvesting project, with the goal of gleaning 721,000 gallons of stormwater from a one-acre section of roof, and using it in their manufacturing process. 

The project has so far provided the company with enough water to manufacture thousands of tons of paperboard. Encouraged by this success, Ferman and his team are currently working on phase two, which they hope to complete by the end of 2013. The Philadelphia Water Department and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation were so impressed by Newman’s rainwater harvesting initiative that they awarded Newman a $370,000 stormwater management grant to offset a considerable portion of the design and construction costs of the next phase. 

Phase two will expand Newman’s rooftop rainwater harvesting area by five acres and glean up to 4.1 million additional gallons of rainwater per year. To reduce operational and manufacturing costs, AKRF engineered the system to utilize existing rain gutters and downspouts in conjunction with free draining gravity systems, and they also designed innovative flow diversion structures to provide pretreatment for the dirtier “first flush” of rainstorm runoff. 

Rainwater harvesting is an age-old practice that was once quite common. With the rising costs of natural resources, more companies like Newman and Company are rediscovering it as a way to save money while remediating stormwater runoff.

Learn more about Newman and Company rainwater harvesting project at newmanpaperboard.com.

Story by Peggy Paul.