Inland Empire Paper Company - Environment


Learn More About IEP and the Environment

  • Accomplishments
  • News & Topics
  • Recycling
  • Accomplishments


    Over the past ten years Inland Empire Paper Company (IEP) has embarked on a modernization program that has resulted in improvments to nearly every process within the mill using state-of-the art equipment. With investments of several hundred million dollars, this phased modernization effort has raised IEP's status to the most modern newsprint facility in the world. Specific projects include installation of a state-of-the-art Thermo-Mechanical Pulping (TMP) system in December 2009; a modern, energy-efficient paper machine that remains newest of its kind in North America; expansion of our biomass waste to energy system; aggressive water conservation program resulting in reduction of treated water flow by 1.5 million gallons per day; commitment to Spokane River water quality improvement evidenced by secondary and tertiary water treatment installations. With these improvements, IEP has positioned itself to remain a vital contributor to the community and a leader in climate change improvements resulting in significant greenhouse gas reductions in Washington State

    These projects are the core of IEP's recent investments into its future and the benefits that they bring to the company, its employees, the community and the environment. In recognition of these significant contributions, IEP has been designated the 2010 Manufacturer of the Year for medium-size companies by the Association of Washington Businesses. IEP will continue to be proactive in the research and implementation of state-of-the-art technologies to enhance the plant's production and efficiency, and to minimize its impact on the environment. The company's philosophy and commitment to environmental stewardship has established Inland Empire Paper Company as an exemplary operating facility and set the benchmarking bar for newsprint mills.


    TMP/Heat Recovery:

    In December 2009, a new state-of-the-art Thermo-Mechanical Pulping (TMP) system was completed to replace pulping systems originally installed in the 1960’s. The TMP process produces pulp from waste wood chips collected from local sawmills. The new state-of-the-art refiner equipment includes a heat recovery system that efficiently recovers waste heat generated by the refining process. The recovered energy from this new system significantly reduced IEP’s dependence on natural gas by approximately 77% or 500 million cubic feet annually. This $50 million investment resulted in the following significant mill-wide emissions reductions due to reduction of natural gas consumption and heat recovery from the refining process:

    • Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) Emissions Reduction — 75%
    • Carbon Monoxide (CO) Emissions Reduction — 72%
    • Total Particulate Matter (PM) Emissions Reduction — 65%
    • Nitrogen Oxide (NOX) Emissions Reduction — 58%
    • Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Emissions Reduction — 45%

    Due to concerns over climate change, one of this project’s most significant benefits is the reduction in IEP’s carbon footprint. The decrease in natural gas consumption with heat recovery results in a reduction in IEP’s carbon dioxide emissions in excess of 30,000 tons/year. IEP’s proactive effort equates to a significant reduction for the State of Washington in its effort to establish and carry out initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    Paper Machine:

    In 2001 IEP installed a modern, energy efficient paper machine that remains the newest of its kind in North America. The machine uses heat recovery and water reuse to minimize energy and water consumption. This $120 million investment also incorporates the latest technology in papermaking that allows IEP to manufacture over 30 different grades of paper and the ability to switch grades on the run at a moments notice. This flexibility creates a much broader market for IEP’s products and allows for immediate response to customer demand. Learn more about our Papermaking Process.


    IEP invests great effort to incorporate recycling of resources into its manufacturing processes. Nearly all of the raw materials to manufacture IEP’s products are composed of waste products generated by society and industry.  IEP refines wood waste materials from local sawmills as virgin fiber to account for approximately 40-90% of its final newsprint product. The balance of fiber is provided by pulp produced from the recycling of old newsprint, telephone books, magazines and office waste. In 1991, IEP became the 6th recycler of paper in the United States. The installation of a facility to recycle approximately 120 tons per day (TPD) of old newspapers helped create a market for waste paper collected by municipal solid waste management programs. The recycle plant was upgraded numerous times over the past ten years to increase the system capacity to 335 TPD and contend with contaminants from increasing single-stream supply. IEP has the capability of producing a finished paper product with a recycle content up to 60%.


    Biomass waste generated from the processing of recycled paper products and waste wood chips is removed as sludge from IEP’s wastewater treatment system. A Fluidized Bed Combustion (FBC) system was installed to convert 30 dry tons per day (dtpd) of sludge to energy for beneficial use within the mill. Consumption of sludge in the FBC system greatly minimizes solid waste disposal, converts the sludge waste to an inert ash product, and reduces hauling volume resulting in less truck traffic and associated transportation emissions. The amount of solid waste reduction realized with the FBC is in excess of 85% by weight. Furthermore, the majority of ash generated by the FBC is currently being recycled as a concrete admixture or used for composting. “Green Energy” produced with combustion of the sludge has offset approximately 25% of the mill's steam energy demand previously produced with natural gas. In 2006, the capacity of the FBC was increased from 30 to 50 dtpd due to the increase in recycling of old newsprint. This capacity increase reduced the amount of sludge that would have otherwise been sent to landfill by over 9 million pounds annually.


    Beginning in 2004, IEP embarked on an aggressive water conservation program. Numerous projects have been implemented, including: re-use of wastewater in various mill processes, re-use of water within the recycle plant, installation of water control devices on pump seals, and optimization of water intensive processes. Since the beginning of this program, IEP has reduced its treated wastewater flow by approximately 1.0 to 1.5 million gallons per day.  IEP is continuing with these efforts and expects continued reductions in the future. IEP’s ultimate goal is to not discharge any treated process water to the Spokane River. There are currently no white paper mills that have achieved this goal.


    IEP is an active participant in collaboration with State agencies and other stakeholders to improve water quality in the Spokane River and Lake Spokane. Over the past 6 years, IEP has performed pilot scale testing on ten (10) state-of-the-art phosphorus reduction technologies. Continuing with these proactive efforts, IEP commissioned a 1.0 MGD advanced treatment system in August, 2007 for low-level phosphorus removal from its effluent. Upon optimization, this polished effluent will be used as reclaim water within the mill. 

    As a commitment to this water quality improvement plan, IEP continues to research new technologies. IEP is currently testing the first biological advanced treatment system for nutrient removal using algae. This technology is currently showing great promise in reducing nutrients, therefore IEP will likely be the proving ground for larger scale application. 

    From 2006 to 2009, IEP improved the efficiency of its secondary wastewater treatment system with the addition of three Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor’s (MBBR), as a proactive effort to meet more stringent forthcoming permit limitations. With the recent completion of the latest MBBR system in 2009, IEP now has the maximum amount of effective secondary treatment possible. All of these water quality improvements above were performed prior to any regulatory mandates.