When the coronavirus pandemic accelerated a nationwide trend of declining print-advertising revenue amid temporary business closures, the Inland Empire Paper Co. saw an opportunity to innovate by developing two new paper products.
The Millwood-based pulp and paper mill launched Empire bagstock, which is lightweight and made from a minimum of 30% recycled content.
The paper grade can be used for merchandise bags, envelopes and food packaging, such as restaurant to-go bags.
ARC Natural, the company’s other new paper grade, is made from 100% recycled content and “is an environmentally-friendly alternative to paper containing added bleach or dyes,” according to a company release. The paper grade can be used for packing, wrapping and writing paper.
The two paper grades have allowed Inland Empire Paper Co. to diversify its product lines and grow in the future, said Doug Krapas, Inland Empire Paper Co.’s environmental manager.
COVID-19 created a shift in consumer behavior as people gravitated to shopping online and ordering takeout from restaurants due to statewide restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.
That shift has resulted in an increase in demand for food-grade paper in the restaurant industry, Krapas said.
“As markets change, we’ll adapt and change with them,” he said. “Our claim to fame is a state-of-the-art facility that gives us that flexibility. We are always looking at how we can expand our capabilities and grow in the future.”
Inland Empire Paper Co., founded in 1911, offers more than 50 lightweight newsprint and specialty paper options.
It owns and manages more than 120,000 acres of forestland in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
The company also processes more than 45,000 tons of recycled paper feedstock annually and operates what it describes as “one of the newest and most advanced water treatment systems in the U.S.”
Inland Empire Paper Co. is owned by Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.
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