The Alkaline Paper Advocate

Volume 1, Number 2
Mar 1988

Why is the Change to Alkaline Papermaking so Slow?

In an article by J. W. Atkins on technology implementation in the April 1983 Tappi Journal, three factors are identified: linearity of process, high capital cost/product value ratio, and performance evaluation on the basis of the bottom line. Jackie Cox's article in the March 1988 American Papermaker also addresses reluctance to adopt new technology "Mills and New Technology Don't Always Dance to the Same Tune"). A number of factors are described in this article, which is based on a literature review and personal interviews: whether the return on investment will be fast or slow, whether the new product will meet customers' needs, the risk of failure if the new technology doesn't work in that particular mill, avoidance of complex new technology that will result in pervasive changes, the desire to see someone else go first, and so on. Oxygen delignification and alkaline papermaking are mentioned as examples of new technology.

On the other hand, the transition to alkaline papermaking is accelerating, as the list of 38 papermakers who make at least one alkaline or neutral paper, elsewhere in this issue, demonstrates. A similar list in the December 1980 issue of the Abbey Newsletter, compiled with the help of John Williams of the Library of Congress Research and Testing Office, lists only 15 of them. Jim Matters of Pfizer, Inc. (a supplier of calcium carbonate and other chemicals) predicted at the recent TAPPI conference in Kalamazoo that within the next few years 48% of U.S. free sheets will be alkaline. Pulp & Paper, Dec. 1987, on p. 41, estimates that "out of the 45,500 tpd [tons per day] produced on nearly 300 machines, 30%. are made under alkaline or neutral conditions and another 30%. are on trial in hopes of reaching full production."

Seven of the 20 leading U.S. paper companies listed in the 1988 Lockwood-Post's Directory make some alkaline paper, and at least two more are planning to convert. Nine of the 45 major companies identified by Literary Market Place as making book paper are 100%. alkaline.

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