Originally created 11/10/05

Crew at work recycling tissue mill



Augusta Tissue Mill is still quiet, aside from the sounds of workers clanking pipes and forklifts removing the last bits of waste from the building's former tenant.

"It'll get noisier," President and CEO Jim Gustin said, standing among the mill's "giant blenders," large tubs that will soon be recycling used office paper into pulp.

The project has been "a little bit behind schedule" because the company needed more time to secure financing and finish engineering plans, Mr. Gustin said. Operations were expected to start in the first quarter of 2006, but the date has been pushed back to August.

When it's all done, the former Ponderosa Paper Mill recycling facility, located in the Miracle Mile Industrial Park off Marvin Griffin Road, will be renovated, and a new 28,000-square-foot facility next door will turn the recycled pulp into toilet paper, facial tissue and hand towels.

The whole project will cost about $16 million and will mean 150 new jobs. About 24 office administration and mechanical maintenance positions have already been filled.

Construction on the new building will finish in the next five months.

So far, concrete pillars have been put on the property where hundreds of tons of equipment will be placed, Mr. Gustin said. A small office building is also being constructed.

When the complex is up and running, recycled paper purchased from wastepaper brokers across the country will be converted to pulp in the existing building. The pulp will be transported next door for compression into jumbo rolls of paper. The building will create about 100 tons of paper a day, Mr. Gustin said. These rolls will be shipped to other companies that separate the product into small rolls. Shoppers could find the finished product in places such as dollar stores, Holiday Inn rooms and Wal-Mart bathrooms, Mr. Gustin said.

"As soon as we start producing, it's sold," he said.

Mr. Gustin co-owns the mill with Kent Hogan, who also owns Laurel Hill Paper Co., based in Cordova, N.C. Laurel Hill will likely be converting some of Augusta Tissue's jumbo rolls into the finished product, Mr. Gustin said.

In addition to the rolls, Augusta Tissue will sell sheets of pressed pulp to companies without the capabilities to de-ink recycled office paper, Mr. Gustin said. This will likely come online in March or April.

Augusta Tissue is planning to expand operations further by January 2008 with an $18 million project expected to create 100 more jobs.

Recycling is "the way of the future," said Mr. Gustin, who has worked in paper mills as a mechanical engineer for 37 years. "We've only got so many landfills."

Reach Tony Lombardo at (706) 823-3227 or tony.lombardo@augustachronicle.com.