New life for UPM mill

Jo Francis
Wednesday, May 11, 2022

UPM’s shuttered Chapelle Darblay newsprint mill in France is set to be reborn as a cardboard production site under its new owners.

Community celebrates new deal at Chapelle Darblay mill. Image: Community of Rouen
Community celebrates new deal at Chapelle Darblay mill. Image: Community of Rouen

Yesterday (10 May), UPM confirmed that the asset sale to the Community of Rouen covering the land, buildings and equipment had been completed. 

The original plans to sell the facility to Samfi and Paprec last autumn were halted after the Community of Rouen activated its first refusal rights, permitted under French law, because the conurbation wanted to continue the circular economy activities of recycling and paper production at the site.

Also on 10 May, the ownership and assets were transferred to Veolia Group, which is working in partnership with Fibre Excellence to reinvent the mill. 

Before it was closed in June 2020 Chapelle Darblay, located to the north-west of Paris, was the only French mill capable of producing 100% recycled paper with fibre entirely from recovery and recycling, and had a recycling capacity of 480,000tpa. 

The Rouen Normandy metropolis said it had been “fighting for months to preserve the famous Chapelle Darblay paper mill, a true industrial jewel located in Grand-Couronne”.

Nicolas Mayer-Rossignol, mayor of Rouen, and president of the Rouen Normandy Metropolis, said: “This is a historic decision for ecology, the circular economy and reindustrialisation in France. And this is happening in the Rouen conurbation!”

Local officials said that the previous plans would have led many communities to bury or burn their waste paper rather than recycle it, or it would be sent to Belgium and Germany.

Under the new ownership the plant is expected to produce 400,000tpa of packaging cardboard made from recycled paper and cardboard collected in France. 

The energy needed to run the facility will come from a biomass cogeneration boiler fuelled by organic waste from Normandy, Brittany and northern France. 

Modernising the production facilities and the biomass boiler involves an investment of some €120m (£103m), and is expected to create 250 skilled jobs – with priority given to local workers who previously worked at the mill. 

Antoine Frérot, chairman and CEO of Veolia, said the plans would transform the factory “while preserving La Chapelle Darblay’s legacy and competencies, and ushers it into a dynamic growth segment of the future”. 

“With ecological transformation solutions, we are making it possible to relocate an industry that was meant to leave France.”

UPM said it remained committed to the French newsprint market and would continue close collaboration with its partners and customers in France.

The paper and biomaterials giant still makes newsprint at its Ettringen, Hürth and Schongau mills in Germany, and at Steyrermühl in Austria. 

The UPM Shotton newsprint mill in the UK ceased newsprint production last year after being sold for conversion.

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