The next time you grab your fast food, there’s a probable chance that it’s wrapped in paper made in Port Alberni.
Paper Excellence said Thursday that it will spend $13 million to increase the output of food packaging grade paper at its Port Alberni paper mill – material used by many well-established restaurants.
“This is fantastic, we’re exceptionally excited,” said mill manager Marc Bodin. “We’ve been working very hard for the last two-plus years to develop food-grade products and demonstrate we can do it here and it’s been the ingenuity and hard work of the people who work here in this facility that has made it happen.”
About 300 people work at the mill and management says those positions will be secured long-term due to the $13 million investment – which is the largest at the mill since 2008.
“The Port Alberni mill has initiated diversifying into unique food-grade papers used by restaurants and food preparation enterprises. This project takes that winning approach to a new level by removing key production bottlenecks in the mill. It will ultimately upgrade both of Port Alberni’s paper machines to make food grades at the same time,” read a statement from Paper Excellence.
“It’s a tremendous shot in the arm for the community,” said Pat Deakin, Port Alberni Economic Development Manager. “It means that 310 employees at the mill will be looking forward to their Christmas and holidays and the new year.”
The mill is still making publication-grade paper for magazines like Rolling Stone and ad inserts but that demand has declined dramatically.
The food-grade paper products will now fill the void and the current pandemic might have something to do with it.
“Yes, food packaging grades are growing worldwide, they’re growing versus publication grades which are declining and certainly some of that uptick is due to COVID but it’s growing as more and more people are working more and have less available time to cook at home, so convenience foods are absolutely growing,” said Bodin.
Two full-time shifts work around the clock, 7 days a week at the mill.