05 July 2020 Paper

French mill receives 11th hour reprieve

The former Arjowiggins mill at Bessé in France has been saved by a Canadian who aims to produce specialist and niche papers rather than commodity coated grades.

The former Arjowiggins papermill at Bessé-sur-Braye is set to reopen after an agreement between new owner Paper Mill Industries and the administrator in France.

However, the mill will no longer be producing standard coated litho papers where the company says there is little chance of profit, but will instead seek out niche markets where there is higher added value. Consequently the new owner will only need 240 of the 566 that the mill employed previously. It has agreed a deal to reach this number by 2025.

The new operation will also diversify from pure paper production. “We will retain paper production as the central post for what we do. So we will not be producing coated papers where demand has been declining owing to digital media and where competition is intense. Instead we will be producing paper from unwanted textiles,” says Pierre Petit, president of PMI.

The company points out that under French law, luxury brands will no longer be able to send unsold and unwanted products to be incinerated from January next year. PMI will be able to turn these materials into pulp which can in turn be made into a very high quality paper.

The new owner is also anticipating the production of paper from mineral sources, creating a paper that, because of its barrier qualities, can be used for food wrap. PMI was set up by Frank Dottori, recognised as a legendary figure in the Canadian forest products industry. His son James Dottori is now CEO.

The plan is to attract start up and other companies that have a stake in the paper industry to the site, helping provide support for start up manufacturing the region.

“We are proposing to reindustrialise the old Bessé-sur-Braye papermaking site in order to revitalise the regional economy and bring new sources of attractiveness to the territory, using industrial projects based on the fundamental principles of sustainable development and using existing industrial tools.

“We will use local resources, train the region’s assets, and redistribute the results in the regional employment pool, while subscribing to a circular economy approach that minimises ecological impacts,” says Petit.

The arrival of PMI came at the eleventh hour for the business which has been idle for more than a year. Under Arjowiggins the mill, between Tours and LeMans, produced 100% and partially recycled papers and playing card doubles side coated substrates, including the Maine, Chromomat and Satimat grades.

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Bessé was the largest mill in the Arjowiggins Creative Papers business at the point that the company went into administration last year. Now the mill, which has not produced paper for more than a year, will again go into operation.

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