24 April 2017 by Steve Eminton

Kent depot complements Smurfit Kappa mill investment

Smurfit Kappa has recently completed a programme of investment across its national recycling depots which has included the creation of a new depot at its Kent mill in Snodland.

The Snodland mill with its PM9 machine has one of the greenest surroundings of any UK mill – boosted by artificial grass

The investment at the Kent site came after the completion of the PM9 paper machine development at its Townsend Hook mill at Snodland, close to the river Medway. The company has its other UK mill, SSK, at Nechells, Birmingham.

SSK produces about 230,000 tonnes of finished product a year with Townsend Hook slightly higher at about 260,000 tonnes.

The depot developments are aimed at saving energy, increasing efficiency, improving worker safety and enhancing customer experience: they are situated in Glasgow, Blackburn, Tamworth, Birmingham, Nottingham and Kent.

The Kent depot, which was formerly a paper warehouse at Townsend Hook, came about largely because the redevelopment of the paper mill site gave an opportunity to build a new and improved depot. A total of up to 500 tonnes of material can now be stored at the depot, under cover and outside.

The depot is a major step forward because of the advantages created by having it sited alongside the Townsend Hook mill. Investment has seen the installation of a powerful new HB120 Bollegraaf baler although of course this is dwarfed by the £100 million of resources put into the mill for the installation of a five metre wide lightweight paper machine (PM9). The machine will enable Smurfit Kappa to produce lightweight testliner and fluting for use in cardboard boxes, grades which it could not produce at the site on the previous two machines.

Alex O’Gorman who has responsibility for the South East region of Smurfit Kappa Recycling, explained that the new depot at Snodland aims to process locally-sourced paper and cardboard and also plastic. The paper and board will be recycled on site which the plastic sent for processing elsewhere.  (article continues below)


The baler means that there is reduced wire breakage and denser bales can be produced. Quieter in operation, it meets the safety requirements of BSEN 16252 and features a power safe mode after 180 seconds which can cut electricity costs by up to 30%.

The depot includes new offices and is still undergoing work as final changes will only be made once the site development is completed over the next two years. Mr O’Gorman explains: “We have new offices and a temporary Avery weighbridge until a building is demolished. We are going then to extend the depot out towards the front of the mill which will improve vehicle access and maximise the flow of the material around the site.”

Good health and safety practices are promoted at the depot. These include monthly meetings, red light warnings for moving vehicles and separation of pedestrians from vehicles as well as the use of Safetech systems and proximity sensors. The building has fire sensors and sprinklers with thermal cameras used to monitor bales. Machines are also monitored for hot spots.

Equipment used on site includes two new Linde forklifts and also two JCB Loadalls with fire suppressants fitted and as well as the Bollegraaf baler, there is also a Boa baler for office grade material.

Safety is an important consideration. The company says that it has invested heavily in a number of other health and safety improvements at Snodland and across its depot network in order to improve pedestrian and transport segregation. This has included the installation of new gates, A-Safe barriers, improved lighting and signage. All of Smurfit Kappa Recycling’s depots are certified to OHSAS18001, the Occupational Health and Safety Management System Standard, as well as BS EN ISO14001, an internationally-recognised Environmental Management System Standard.

Local authorities

Material for the Townsend Hook mill, which uses 100 per cent recycled input, comes from a range of sources including the company’s own corrugating business, retailers, merchants and waste management companies. It also comes from local authorities including Kent household waste recycling sites which are seen as providing good quality pre-sorted material. The bulk of all this feedstock at present goes direct to the mill but increasing volumes will come via the depot.

Mr O’Gorman notes: “We have an integrated business model of supporting our own mills and with the mills supporting our own corrugators. This is a very robust business model.”

Andrew Perkins, commercial director at Smurfit Kappa Recycling, comments that at the SSK mill in Birmingham some post-consumer material is also used. “Generally speaking, the quality is not bad. A good example would be Birmingham city council who, working with their waste managers Veolia, produce good quality source-separated mixed paper from Birmingham.” But, he emphasises that there is a continuing need to exert backward pressure all the way to the householder on the need for quality.


On the Snodland depot, Mr Perkins says that this will help to ensure quality in an additional way. “If there is a rejected load from the mill rather than returning it, they now have the option to send it to the depot where we can quarantine it and then have the option of sorting it safely.”

About 700 tonnes a day of recovered paper is used each day at Townsend Hook for papermaking, explains mill manager Kevin Bussey who is proud of what has been achieved with a “significant investment of £100 million in the mill. With that we have had the development PM9 and a new effluent processing plant”.

The PM9 machine came from Italian company Cartiera di Cadidavid which had run into financial difficulties in 2010. At Snodland the machine was refurbished with many new elements added to it.

Mill manager Kevin Bussey who is proud of what has been achieved at Snodland with the new PM9 paper machine

PM9 replaced two older machines and gave the company the ability to produce about 260,000 tonnes per year of lightweight material.

The film press was rebuilt and modernised and the Valmet winder which also came from Cadidavid was also completely refurbished. New equipment included process control services and drives along with a state of the art digital control system. Reels are all spliced automatically with limited human interaction.

Mr Bussey says that the building infrastructure is brand new. “Now there are plans to develop the rest of the site with the main project involving CHP. Our use of the existing CHP plant, which is owned and run by SSE, will end in September 2018. Smurfit Kappa is having its own more modern and independent CHP built on the site and that represents the final phase of PM9. Commissioning is due in summer 2018 and some of the older buildings will disappear and there will be a new enhanced site which will be streamlined”.

This will mean that the footprint of the CHP plant will be a lot smaller and more in line with energy requirements of the new plant..

In terms of production, he describes the paper machine project as one of “significant modernisation which was required for the types of paper which we are making today. The design aim was for making lightweight papers so everything was built around this.

“We make 85-125 gsm paper in Testliner and Fluting which complements Birmingham who make 125-250gsm.

Now the hope is that with the new paper machine and a depot on site, the Townsend Hook Snodland mill will become a shining star within the Smurfit Kappa group in terms of efficient production and the delivery of best practice.

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