24 Feb. 2022. Columbia Pulp, LLC has idled its Lyons Ferry pulp production facility in Starbuck, Washington. The pulp plant, which has the capacity to produce 140,000 tons per year of wet lap pulp from wheat straw, was idled on Feb. 18.
The decision affects approximately 80 employees that work primarily in Columbia Pulp's headquarters in Dayton, Washington, and at the Lyons Ferry production plant.
"We made this very difficult decision while continuing to evaluate our strategic options," said Terry Ryan, Columbia Pulp's Interim CEO. "We are acutely aware that this has wide-reaching impacts on many people — our valued employees and their families, farm suppliers, and the communities in which we operate. The Columbia Pulp team is talented and dedicated, and we are committed to assisting them through this transition."
More than a decade ago, Columbia Pulp was founded with a vision to utilize wheat straw to create an alternative fiber pulp that would leverage opportunities for paper and packaging applications while driving significant improvements in sustainability both locally and for its customers. The company went on to become North America's first tree-free pulp mill.
"Being a first of its kind application with this type of technology has not been without challenges," Ryan explained. "And while this is normal for a company at the forefront in developing a product like this, to continue on we must make these hard choices while we evaluate our options going forward."
Columbia Pulp said the majority of the plant production is expected to pause in second quarter with a small staff that will remain to handle daily business operations. Support will be provided to employees in terms of transition and employee assistance.
"We know that the work of all of our employees helped pave the way for an alternative fiber option in our target markets and will have a lasting impact," Ryan said. "We believe in this vision and what it means for the future of sustainability in the pulp and paper industry."
On its LinkedIn page, Columbia Pulp noted, "We have idled our facility as we wait for the demand in alternative fiber to grow. Our announcement has resulted in a surge of interest and orders. We are conducting several trials at both paper mills and molding facilities, as we continue to work with close partners to develop markets and products. If you have a viable commercial scenario, it is not too late to run a trial with our remaining inventory and go through converting, packaging, and field work. If you are interested, we need to move fast."
Columbia Pulp said interested parties should contact Dr. Phil Harding, Vice President of Applications, through his LinkedIn page: www.linkedin.com/in/phil-harding-ph-d-p-e-or-08a67b5/.
Columbia Pulp is North America’s first tree-free market pulp mill, using wheat farmers’ waste straw to create pulp for paper products as well as bio-polymers for a variety of industrial uses. For further information, visit: columbiapulp.com.