USA – American corrugated packaging company WestRock has announced plans to permanently shut down its paper mill in Tacoma, Washington DC, US.

The business is expected to conclude all related production work at the facility by 30 September this year.

WestRock said its decision to close the paper mill can be attributed to high operating costs alongside a requirement for significant capital investment.

This decision will further support WestRock’s plans to improve its returns on invested capital and efforts to maximize the overall performance of its assets.

The plant supports the production of kraft paper, white top liner, as well as bleached pulp. It has a combined annual production capacity of approximately 510,000 tonnes (t).

Following the site’s closure, the company said it plans to shift the majority of its kraft and white top liner products to its other mills to address the requirements of its customers in the North American region and international markets.

The closure will result in a reduction of pulp production capacity by approximately 60,000t, and of speciality grade paper by roughly 25,000t.

This move is expected to impact approximately 400 employees currently working at the Tacoma mill.

WestRock assured that all its employees at the site will receive severance and outplacement assistance, as per the company’s policy and its labor union agreements.

WestRock CEO David B Sewell said: “WestRock is working to optimize our operational footprint and consolidate production to improve our return on invested capital, and we have made the difficult decision to close the Tacoma mill as part of this effort.

“One of the most critical factors we consider when making the difficult decision to close a facility is the impact it will have on the lives of our team members, and we are committed to assisting our Tacoma team with exploring roles at other WestRock locations and nearby companies as well as providing outplacement assistance.”

The announcement comes barely four months since the company announced its plans to permanently shut down its paper mill in South Carolina, US.

Based in North Charleston, the paper mill which produces uncoated kraft paper or KraftPak, containerboard and unbleached saturating kraft paper or DuraSorb, will stop operating on 31 August 2023.

David B. Sewell, chief executive officer at WestRock, at the time, said: “The decision to close a facility and impact the lives of our team members is never easy, and we are committed to assisting our North Charleston team with exploring roles at other WestRock locations and outplacement assistance.

“WestRock and its predecessor companies have had a long history in the region operating the North Charleston mill, and the contributions of the team members over the years have been greatly appreciated.”

After the closure of the plant, the company is planning to shift the manufacturing work related to containerboard and uncoated kraft to other WestRock production units.

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